Early Indicators of Enduring Symptoms in High School Athletes with Multiple Previous Concussions
Schatz P, Moser RS, Covassin T, Karpf R. Neurosurgery. 2011 Jan 6. [Epub ahead of print] DOI: 10.1227/NEU.0b013e31820e382e
Concussions have been receiving significant amounts of media attention in the past several months in addition to the NFL lending support to adolescent athletes with increased awareness campaigns. Keeping with that trend, this was a multi-center study that examined 616 high school athletes. Each athlete had completed baseline neuropsychological tests using the IMPACT system. Athletes were assigned to groups after data collection based on their history of concussion (none, one, or multiple). Several cognitive, emotional, and physical symptoms were examined and compared across groups. The researchers found that athletes with two or more concussions (105 athletes) had higher ratings of physical symptoms, which included headache, balance problems, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue. Athletes with two or more concussions also had higher ratings of cognitive and sleep symptoms.

This study was one of the first to examine the residual effects of having multiple concussions in adolescents. Several studies have examined this in collegiate and professional athletes with less dramatic results. It seems that young athletes are at a larger risk for continued symptoms and cognitive deficits after concussions. These are very significant results which clinicians should be aware of and educate athletes, coaches, and parents on. As healthcare providers we must help to not only prevent and treat current injuries but also keep the athletes long-term health in mind. Coaches, parents, and even us at times get caught up in the game and do whatever it takes to get that athlete back on the field. This study highlights the importance of keeping the athlete’s health (short term and long term) our number one priority, especially with adolescent athletes. Further research is needed to determine if these symptoms continually progress as the athlete ages or if it is possible to reverse the residual symptoms. This will help us evolve as clinicians; we will not only better advise athletes that suffer concussions but also better treat them.

Written by: Stephen Thomas
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Driban