Baseline testing is a common topic and especially prevalent in athletics as the topic of preventing, reducing, and returning safely from concussions continues to be critical. It is relatively simple to just perform an initial single test at a given point (intake) and refer back to that data as the "baseline" or normal data, but that is unfortunately not the most accurate way to understand or determine an individual's baseline. A single point taken months in the past may not be a truly accurate representation of that individual's norm.
A prerequisite to determining a baseline is to first understand that it truly is a line and not just a single data point. With most assessments, but particularly with the Sparta Scans each assessment is a snapshot of that individual at that given point in time which can be influenced by a variety of things including current "readiness" or fatigue levels. A baseline should instead be a series of data points obtained frequently so we can help to control for a potential single outlier and get a better idea of each individual's data variability. A baseline is a range, and consistent, frequent, longitudinal assessment gives a better picture of that than any single point. This will allow practitioners to "separate the signal from the noise" and identify meaningful change from an individual's norm or baseline.
By utilizing multiple datapoints we can understand an individual's average or mean values, as well as their normal variability or the standard deviation of the values of their data. If an individual's data falls outside of one standard deviation from their "baseline" this should alert practitioners to take a further look to determine the next steps. Oftentimes changes from baseline are actually a cause for celebration as they are a step in the right direction for a specific individual, for example, if an athlete with chronically low Load saw a significant improvement. However, at other times these changes may be cause for concern as it relates to fatigue, pain, or simply poor recovery and regeneration.
How does Sparta determine an individual's baseline?
Within the Sparta system, changes from baseline will be highlighted for each individual based on the amount of change. For this, Sparta defines an individual's "baseline" by taking the average of their last 90 days worth of data. If there is no data within the last 90 days, Sparta will utilize an average of the last 3 scans.
For further information of how we identify meaningful change check out: How does Sparta identify meaningful change?