Children's Hospital Colorado
Orthopedics Institute
Orthopedics Institute

Concussion Testing: Neuropsychological Assessment

A close-up of a kid wearing a blue jersey and white football helmet. He has black eye paint under his eyes.Get answers to frequently asked questions about neuropsychological testing from Michael Kirkwood, PhD, co-director of the Concussion Program at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

What is a neuropsychological assessment?

A “pediatric neuropsychological assessment” is a procedure that gives doctors information about how a child or teen’s brain is working after a concussion. The assessment is used to evaluate thinking skills and behavior.

Why do we use neuropsychological testing?

After a concussion, information from this assessment is used to answer questions about whether the brain is fully healed, why difficulties might be occurring, whether the patient should return to sports, and how best to treat any school, thinking, or behavioral problems.

Why choose the Concussion Program at Children’s Colorado for neuropsychological assessment?

The Concussion Program is staffed by board-certified pediatric neuropsychologists who have particular expertise in how to evaluate and manage concussions in children and teenagers. Learn more about our Concussion Program.

What is involved in a neuropsychological assessment after a concussion?

After a concussion, a neuropsychological assessment typically involves four parts: 1) reviewing information about the injury and any current problems; 2) giving paper-and-pencil and computerized tests to the child to evaluate memory, attention, speed, and other thinking areas; 3) gathering relevant background information from the child and caregiver; and 4) providing feedback to the caregiver, child, and professionals about the test results and how best to support recovery.

How much time do assessments take?

After a concussion, the neuropsychological assessment typically lasts 2 to 3 hours, which includes work with the child and discussion with the caregivers. In some situations, assessments can take more time, such as when concussions have occurred many months prior to the evaluation or after more severe injuries.

Who should be present at the session?

In addition to the child or teen, at least one caregiver needs to be present for the neuropsychological session. If possible, it is helpful to have both parents present, especially if they have different information or concerns about the child’s concussion history.

How will I find out about the results?

In most cases, the neuropsychologist at Children’s Colorado will provide preliminary feedback about the results after the evaluation is completed. On occasion, the feedback meeting may be scheduled on a separate day. Your family will be given a written report summarizing the results and our recommendations. We’ll send the report directly to your family, primary healthcare providers and other involved professionals as appropriate (with parental consent).

How do I make an appointment?

If your child is being seen by the Children’s Hospital Colorado concussion team, you may be referred for neuropsychological assessment. You may also contact us directly without a referral. To schedule a neuropsychological appointment after a suspected concussion, please call 720-777-2806.

Healthcare providers: Download our clinical care guidelines for concussion (.pdf)  

Learn more about the Concussion Program at Children’s Colorado.