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Use of acute cognitive symptom cluster to predict return-to-learn duration following a sport-related concussion

Alan R. Tang, Philip J. Davis, Kristen L. Williams, Alan Z. Grusky, Katherine S. Hajdu, Brian Q. Hou, Aaron M. Yengo-Kahn, Scott L. Zuckerman, and Douglas P. Terry

OBJECTIVE

Adolescents sustaining sport-related concussion often experience difficulties with the return-to-learn (RTL) process. Whereas the initial symptom burden has predicted prolonged RTL, no studies have established a relationship between acute cognitive symptoms and RTL duration. The authors sought to evaluate the relationship between initial cognitive symptoms and RTL duration.

METHODS

A retrospective single-institution cohort study of adolescent athletes aged 12–23 years who were evaluated within 5 days of a diagnosed sport-related concussion between November 2017 and October 2020 was conducted. Athletes missing cognitive symptom ratings and RTL data were excluded. The primary exposure variable was the Cognitive Symptom Ratio (CSR), defined as total cognitive symptom cluster score divided by total Post-Concussion Symptom Scale (PCSS) score from the initial clinic visit. Primary and secondary outcomes were time to RTL and total length of care, respectively. Multivariable Cox proportional hazards modeling was used to assess the effect of CSR on RTL duration.

RESULTS

Of 653 athletes evaluated within 5 days of injury, 346 patients were included in the final cohort. Athletes reported a median initial PCSS score of 21 (interquartile range [IQR] 6–37) and a median cognitive symptom score of 4 (IQR 0–9). Most patients endorsed some degree of difficulty concentrating (n = 212, 61.3%). The median CSR was 0.18 (IQR 0.00–0.27). On multivariable regression analysis, a higher CSR was associated with prolonged RTL duration (HR 0.30, 95% CI 0.13–0.69, p = 0.004). When initial PCSS score was added to the model, the previously significant association between CSR and RTL was no longer significant (HR 0.67, 95% CI 0.29–1.59, p = 0.367). When dichotomized based on frequency distribution, a higher proportion of patients with low CSR achieved RTL by 7 days postinjury (82.2% vs 69.9%, p = 0.007), a difference not seen at 14 days (92.2% vs 87.3%, p = 0.133).

CONCLUSIONS

An acute ratio of cognitive symptoms may predict patients at increased risk for prolonged RTL and those with normal PCSS scores who may experience difficulties once resuming school activities.

Free access

Predicting early versus late recovery from sport-related concussion using decision tree analysis

Jackson H. Allen, Alan R. Tang, Katherine S. Hajdu, Brian Q. Hou, Alan Z. Grusky, Heidi Chen, Christopher M. Bonfield, Scott L. Zuckerman, Douglas P. Terry, and Aaron M. Yengo-Kahn

OBJECTIVE

Accurately predicting early (≤ 14 days) versus typical (15–27 days) or delayed (≥ 28 days) recovery from sport-related concussion (SRC) may allow for improved resource utilization and precision in planning and carrying out rehabilitation. In this study, the authors sought to develop an algorithm that enables accurate differentiation of recovery periods and duration after SRC. The authors hypothesized that data regarding initial symptom burden as quantified by a Post-Concussion Symptom Scale (PCSS) score, time to presentation, and number of prior concussions would be the most useful for analyzing predictive factors for concussion recovery duration.

METHODS

A retrospective case-control study was conducted to assess the primary outcome of days to clinical recovery following SRC in pediatric patients. Data from patients 12–18 years old presenting within 28 days of injury to an SRC clinic between November 11, 2017, and October 10, 2020, were analyzed. Patients with positive evidence of injury on head imaging or incomplete records were excluded. The primary outcome was duration of clinical recovery, grouped as early (≤ 14 days), typical (15–27 days), or delayed (≥ 28 days). Recovery was defined as follows: 1) symptom resolution or return to baseline, or 2) initiation of graduated return to play. CHAID (chi-square automatic interaction detection) analysis was used to optimize a decision tree based on 16 input factors, including age, sex, initial PCSS score, time to clinic presentation, number of prior concussions, and presence of defined symptom clusters. The cohort was randomized into training (70%) and test (30%) samples for algorithm validation.

RESULTS

A total of 493 patients met the inclusion criteria (mean age 15.7 ± 1.5 years, 68.2% male, 70.0% White). The median time to presentation was 5 days (IQR 2–10 days). Most patients (52.3%) recovered within 14 days of injury, 21.5% recovered within 15–27 days, and 26.2% had a recovery period of 28 days or longer. The variables most predictive of recovery were initial PCSS score (cutoffs ≤ 6, 7–28, or ≥ 29), time to presentation (≤ 7 vs > 7 days), or prior concussions (0 vs ≥ 1). The model accurately discriminated between early versus typical or delayed recovery duration groupings (area under the curve 0.80, Youden index 0.44), and correctly classified > 90% of patients who recovered early.

CONCLUSIONS

This novel three-factor predictive tool enabled accurate discrimination of early versus typical or delayed SRC recovery to better allocate resources, counsel patients, and make timely referrals.