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Exploring the outcomes and experiences of Black and White athletes following a sport-related concussion: a retrospective cohort study

Aaron M. Yengo-Kahn, Jessica Wallace, Viviana Jimenez, Douglas J. Totten, Christopher M. Bonfield, and Scott L. Zuckerman


Young American athletes, at risk of sport-related concussion (SRC), represent many races; however, it is unknown how race may influence the experience and outcome of SRC. The authors’ objective was to compare White and Black athletes’ recovery and subjective experiences after SRC.


A retrospective study was performed using the Vanderbilt Sports Concussion registry. Self-reported White and Black young athletes (ages 12–23 years) who had been treated for SRC between 2012 and 2015 were included. Athletes with learning disabilities or psychiatric conditions were excluded. Data were collected by electronic medical record review and phone calls to athletes and parents or guardians. The primary outcomes were as follows: 1) days to symptom resolution (SR), 2) days to return to school, and changes in 3) any daily activity (binary) and 4) sport behavior (binary). Secondary outcomes were changes (more, unchanged, or less) in specific activities such as sleep, schoolwork, and television time, as well as equipment (binary) or playing style (more reckless, unchanged, or less reckless) and whether the athlete retired from sport. Descriptive analyses, multivariable Cox proportional hazards models, and logistic regression were performed.


The final cohort included 247 student-athletes (36 Black, 211 White). Black athletes were male (78% vs 58%) more often than White athletes, but both races were similar in age, sport, and medical/family histories. Black athletes more frequently had public insurance (33.3% vs 5.7%) and lived in areas with a low median income (41.2% vs 26.6%). After adjusting for age, sex, concussion history, insurance status, and zip code median income, Black athletes reached an asymptomatic status (HR 1.497, 95% CI 1.014–2.209, p = 0.042) and returned to school earlier (HR 1.522, 95% CI 1.020–2.270, p = 0.040). Black athletes were less likely to report a change in any daily activity than White athletes (OR 0.368, 95% CI 0.136–0.996, p = 0.049). Changes in sport behavior were comparable between the groups.


Racial differences appear to exist in the outcomes and experience of SRC for young athletes, as Black athletes reached SR and return to school sooner than White athletes. Race should be considered as an important social determinant in SRC treatment.