Progression exertion tests are given after the student athlete passes Impact and clinical tests given by a physician who is experienced in concussion care. The tests are a physical stress test used to see if there are any symptoms that may linger after the athlete has been cleared by the physician. Studies have shown that athletes who may be symptom free may still have concussion symptoms after they begin to exercise. The physical stress can bring out any lingering effects from the concussion.
The steps to completion of the progression exertion tests are: low levels that include 20 min of walking and stationary bike, moderate levels that include moderate jogging and stationary biking, to heavy non-contact levels including sprinting, and non contact sport specific drills. I have found these tests to be very important in return to play due to the fact that I have had athletes fail memory, balance, and eye tests after some exertion. Some athletes had to stop in the middle of their exercise due to dizziness, nausea, and other symptoms. Imagine if the athlete was to return to play without the progression tests and had these issues while playing in a competition or practice. Chances are the athlete would not report the symptoms and make their concussion worse or collapse on the field or court.
The tests are given by a certified athletic trainer and not a coach. Balance, memory, and eye tests are given to see if any symptoms are present. I have had athletes tell me they were fine and failed the post test. When I tell them they failed, then they admit to me that they were having symptoms and did not want to tell me so they could return to their sport. This is an example of why these tests are given before they return to play. If any athlete does not pass, then they are not tested again until they are symptom free and then they start at the level they previously failed.
This is a short explanation of how the progression exertion test is given. Hopefully some of the information was helpful in understanding the process of returning to play after a concussion.