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Michael J. Ellis, Lesley J. Ritchie, Mark Koltek, Shahid Hosain, Dean Cordingley, Stephanie Chu, Erin Selci, Jeff Leiter, and Kelly Russell

OBJECT

The objectives of this study were twofold: 1) to examine the prevalence of emotional symptoms among children and adolescents with a sports-related concussion (SRC) who were referred to a multidisciplinary pediatric concussion program and 2) to examine the prevalence, clinical features, risk factors, and management of postinjury psychiatric outcomes among those in this clinical population.

METHODS

The authors conducted a retrospective chart review of all patients with SRC referred to a multidisciplinary pediatric concussion program between September 2013 and October 2014. Clinical assessments carried out by a single neurosurgeon included clinical history, physical examination, and Post-Concussion Symptom Scale (PCSS) scoring. Postinjury psychiatric outcomes were defined as a subjective worsening of symptoms of a preinjury psychiatric disorder or new and isolated suicidal ideation or diagnosis of a novel psychiatric disorder (NPD). An NPD was defined as a newly diagnosed psychiatric disorder that occurred in a patient with or without a lifetime preinjury psychiatric disorder after a concussion. Clinical resources, therapeutic interventions, and clinical and return-to-play outcomes are summarized.

RESULTS

One hundred seventy-four patients (mean age 14.2 years, 61.5% male) were included in the study. At least 1 emotional symptom was reported in 49.4% of the patients, and the median emotional PCSS subscore was 4 (interquartile range 1–8) among those who reported at least 1 emotional symptom. Overall, 20 (11.5%) of the patients met the study criteria for a postinjury psychiatric outcome, including 14 patients with an NPD, 2 patients with isolated suicidal ideation, and 4 patients with worsening symptoms of a preinjury psychiatric disorder. Female sex, a higher initial PCSS score, a higher emotional PCSS subscore, presence of a preinjury psychiatric history, and presence of a family history of psychiatric illness were significantly associated with postinjury psychiatric outcomes. Interventions for patients with postinjury psychiatric outcomes included pharmacological therapy alone in 2 patients (10%), cognitive behavioral therapy alone in 4 (20%), multimodal therapy in 9 (45%), and no treatment in 5 (25%). Overall, 5 (25%) of the patients with postinjury psychiatric disorders were medically cleared to return to full sports participation, whereas 5 (25%) were lost to follow-up and 9 (45%) remained in treatment by the multidisciplinary concussion program at the end of the study period. One patient who was asymptomatic at the time of initial consultation committed suicide.

CONCLUSIONS

Emotional symptoms were commonly reported among pediatric patients with SRC referred to a multidisciplinary pediatric concussion program. In some cases, these symptoms contributed to the development of an NPD, isolated suicidal ideation, and worsening symptoms of a preexisting psychiatric disorder. Future research is needed to clarify the prevalence, pathophysiology, risk factors, and evidence-based management of postinjury psychiatric outcomes after pediatric SRC. Successful management of these patients requires prompt recognition and multidisciplinary care by experts with clinical training and experience in concussion and psychiatry.

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Michael J. Ellis, Patrick J. McDonald, Dean Cordingley, Behzad Mansouri, Marco Essig, and Lesley Ritchie

The decision to advise an athlete to retire from sports following sports-related concussion (SRC) remains a persistent challenge for physicians. In the absence of strong empirical evidence to support recommendations, clinical decision making must be individualized and should involve a multidisciplinary team of experts in concussion and traumatic brain injury. Although previous authors have advocated for a more conservative approach to these issues in child and adolescent athletes, there are few reports outlining considerations for this process among this unique population. Here, the authors use multiple case illustrations to discuss 3 subgroups of clinical considerations for sports retirement among pediatric SRC patients including the following: those with structural brain abnormalities identified on neuroimaging, those presenting with focal neurological deficits and abnormalities on physical examination, and those in whom the cumulative or prolonged effects of concussion are suspected or demonstrated. The authors' evolving multidisciplinary institutional approach to return-to-play and retirement decision making in pediatric SRC is also presented.

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Dean Cordingley, Richard Girardin, Karen Reimer, Lesley Ritchie, Jeff Leiter, Kelly Russell, and Michael J. Ellis

OBJECTIVE

The objectives of this study were 2-fold: 1) to evaluate the safety, tolerability, and clinical use of graded aerobic treadmill testing in pediatric patients with sports-related concussion (SRC), and 2) to evaluate the clinical outcomes of treatment with a submaximal aerobic exercise program in patients with physiological post-concussion disorder (PCD).

METHODS

The authors conducted a retrospective chart review of pediatric patients (age < 20 years) with SRC who were referred to a multidisciplinary pediatric concussion program and underwent graded aerobic treadmill testing between October 9, 2014, and February 11, 2016. Clinical assessments were carried out by a single neurosurgeon and included clinical history taking, physical examination, and recording specific patient-reported concussion-related symptoms using the Post-Concussion Symptom Scale (PCSS). Graded aerobic treadmill testing using a modified Balke protocol for incremental increases in intensity was used as a diagnostic tool to assess physiological recovery, classify post-concussion syndrome (PCS) subtype, and reassess patients following treatment. Patients with a symptom-limited threshold on treadmill testing (physiological PCD) were treated with an individually tailored submaximal exercise prescription and multidisciplinary targeted therapies.

RESULTS

One hundred six patients (mean age 15.1 years, range 11–19 years) with SRC underwent a total of 141 treadmill tests. There were no serious complications related to treadmill testing in this study. Overall, 138 (97.9%) of 141 tests were well tolerated and contributed valuable clinical information. Treadmill testing confirmed physiological recovery in 63 (96.9%) of 65 patients tested, allowing successful return to play in 61 (93.8%). Treadmill testing was used to diagnose physiological PCD in 58 patients and cervicogenic PCD in 1 patient. Of the 41 patients with physiological PCD who had complete follow-up and were treated with tailored submaximal exercise prescription, 37 (90.2%) were classified as clinically improved and 33 (80.5%) successfully returned to sporting activities. Patients who did not respond or experienced an incomplete response to submaximal aerobic exercise treatment included 7 patients with migraine headaches and 1 patient with a postinjury psychiatric disorder.

CONCLUSIONS

Graded aerobic treadmill testing is a safe, tolerable, and clinically valuable tool that can assist in the evaluation and management of pediatric SRC. Future research is needed to confirm the clinical value of this tool in return-to-play decision making. Studies are also needed to understand the pathophysiology of physiological PCD and the effects of targeted treatment.