Sports-related traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an important public health concern estimated to affect 300,000 to 3.8 million people annually in the United States. Although injuries to professional athletes dominate the media, this group represents only a small proportion of the overall population. Here, the authors characterize the demographics of sports-related TBI in adults from a community-based trauma population and identify predictors of prolonged hospitalization and increased morbidity and mortality rates.
Utilizing the National Sample Program of the National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB), the authors retrospectively analyzed sports-related TBI data from adults (age ≥ 18 years) across 5 sporting categories—fall or interpersonal contact (FIC), roller sports, skiing/snowboarding, equestrian sports, and aquatic sports. Multivariable regression analysis was used to identify predictors of prolonged hospital length of stay (LOS), medical complications, inpatient mortality rates, and hospital discharge disposition. Statistical significance was assessed at α < 0.05, and the Bonferroni correction for multiple comparisons was applied for each outcome analysis.
From 2003 to 2012, in total, 4788 adult sports-related TBIs were documented in the NTDB, which represented 18,310 incidents nationally. Equestrian sports were the greatest contributors to sports-related TBI (45.2%). Mild TBI represented nearly 86% of injuries overall. Mean (± SEM) LOSs in the hospital or intensive care unit (ICU) were 4.25 ± 0.09 days and 1.60 ± 0.06 days, respectively. The mortality rate was 3.0% across all patients, but was statistically higher in TBI from roller sports (4.1%) and aquatic sports (7.7%). Age, hypotension on admission to the emergency department (ED), and the severity of head and extracranial injuries were statistically significant predictors of prolonged hospital and ICU LOSs, medical complications, failure to discharge to home, and death. Traumatic brain injury during aquatic sports was similarly associated with prolonged ICU and hospital LOSs, medical complications, and failure to be discharged to home.
Age, hypotension on ED admission, severity of head and extracranial injuries, and sports mechanism of injury are important prognostic variables in adult sports-related TBI. Increasing TBI awareness and helmet use—particularly in equestrian and roller sports—are critical elements for decreasing sports-related TBI events in adults.