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Jason P. Mihalik, Jamie E. Stump, Michael W. Collins, Mark R. Lovell, Melvin Field, and Joseph C. Maroon

Object. The object of this study was to compare symptom status and neurocognitive functioning in athletes with no headache (non-HA group), athletes complaining of headache (HA group), and athletes with characteristics of posttraumatic migraine (PTM group).

Methods. Neurocognitive tests were undertaken by 261 high-school and collegiate athletes with a mean age of 16.36 ± 2.6 years. Athletes were separated into three groups: the PTM group (74 athletes with a mean age of 16.39 ± 3.06 years), the HA group (124 athletes with a mean age of 16.44 ± 2.51 years), and the non-HA group (63 patients with a mean age of 16.14 ± 2.18 years). Neurocognitive summary scores (outcome measures) for verbal and visual memory, visual motor speed, reaction time, and total symptom scores were collected using ImPACT, a computer software program designed to assess sports-related concussion.

Significant differences existed among the three groups for all outcome measures. The PTM group demonstrated significantly greater neurocognitive deficits when compared with the HA and non-HA groups. The PTM group also exhibited the greatest amount of departure from baseline scores.

Conclusions. The differences among these groups can be used as a basis to argue that PTM characteristics triggered by sports-related concussion are related to increased neurocognitive dysfunction following mild traumatic brain injury. Thus, athletes suffering a concussion accompanied by PTM should be examined in a setting that includes symptom status and neurocognitive testing to address their recovery more fully. Given the increased impairments observed in the PTM group, in this population clinicians should exercise increased caution in decisions about treatment and when the athlete should be allowed to return to play.

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Theodore Hannah, Nickolas Dreher, Adam Y. Li, Dhruv S. Shankar, Ryan Adams, Alex Gometz, Mark R. Lovell, and Tanvir F. Choudhri

OBJECTIVE

Concussions are a major public health concern, especially for high school and college student athletes. However, there are few prognostic metrics that can accurately quantify concussion severity in order to anticipate recovery time and symptom regression. The Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test (ImPACT) is a widely used neurocognitive assessment that can diagnose and track recovery from concussions. This study assesses whether initial ImPACT scores, collected within 48 hours of the injury, can predict persistence of concussion at follow-up.

METHODS

Results from 6912 ImPACT tests were compiled in 2161 unique student athletes, ages 12–22 years. The authors defined a novel metric, the Severity Index (SI), which is a summation of the number of standard deviations from baseline at the 80% CI for each of the 5 composite scores reported by ImPACT. Patients were binned into groups based on SI (0–3.99, 4–7.99, 8–11.99, 12+) and the relationships between SI groups, composite scores, symptom profiles, and recovery time were characterized using 1-way and 2-way ANOVAs and Kaplan-Meier plots. A logistic regression assessed the value of SI for predicting concussion at follow-up.

RESULTS

Patients with a higher SI at diagnosis were more likely to still be concussed at their first follow-up (F3,2300 = 93.06; p < 0.0001). Groups with a higher SI also displayed consistently slower recovery over a 42-day period and were more likely to report symptoms in all 4 symptom clusters (Migraine, Cognition, Sleep, and Neuropsychiatric). When controlling for sex, age, number of previous concussions, days between assessments, and location, SI significantly increased the odds of being concussed at follow-up (OR 1.122, 95% CI 1.088–1.142; p < 0.001). This model showed good discrimination with an area under the curve of 0.74.

CONCLUSIONS

SI is a useful prognostic tool for assessing head injury severity. Concussions with higher initial SI tend to last longer and have broader symptomatic profiles. These findings can help patients and providers estimate recovery based on similar ImPACT score profiles.

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Scott L. Zuckerman, Gary S. Solomon, Jonathan A. Forbes, Richard F. Haase, Allen K. Sills, and Mark R. Lovell

Object

Several studies have suggested a gender difference in response to sports-related concussion (SRC). The Concussion in Sport group did not include gender as a modifying factor in SRC, concluding that the evidence at that point was equivocal. In the present study the authors endeavored to assess acute neurocognitive and symptom responses to an SRC in equivalent cohorts of male and female soccer players. The authors hypothesized that female athletes would experience greater levels of acute symptoms and neurocognitive impairment than males.

Methods

Baseline symptom and neurocognitive scores were determined in 40 male and 40 female soccer players by using the Immediate Postconcussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) scale prior to any SRC. After sustaining an SRC, each athlete completed postconcussion ImPACT tests and was carefully matched on a wide array of biopsychosocial variables. Baseline symptom and neurocognitive test scores were compared, and their acute symptoms and neurocognitive responses to concussive injury were assessed.

Results

Specific a priori hypotheses about differences between males and females at baseline and at postconcussion measurements of verbal and visual memory ImPACT scores were evaluated according to simple main effects of the gender variable and according to baseline-to-postconcussion main effect and interaction of 2 × 2 split-plot ANOVA. Neither the interaction nor the main effects nor the simple main effects for either ImPACT variable were found to be statistically significant. Exploratory ANOVAs applied to the remaining ImPACT variables of visualmotor speed, reaction time, impulse control, and symptom total scores revealed only a single statistically significant baseline-to-postconcussion main effect for the symptom total.

Conclusions

The results failed to replicate prior findings of gender-specific baseline neurocognitive differences in verbal and visual memory. The findings also indicated no differential gender-based acute response to concussion (symptoms or neurocognitive scores) among high school soccer players. The implications of these findings for the inclusion of gender as a modifying factor in this tightly matched cohort are addressed. Potential explanations for the null findings are discussed.

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Mark R. Lovell, Michael W. Collins, Grant L. Iverson, Melvin Field, Joseph C. Maroon, Robert Cantu, Kenneth Podell, John W. Powell, Mark Belza, and Freddie H. Fu

Object. A computerized neuropsychological test battery was conducted to evaluate memory dysfunction and self-reporting of symptoms in a group of high school athletes who had suffered concussion.

Methods. Neuropsychological performance prior to and following concussion was compared with the test performance of an age-matched control group. Potentially important diagnostic markers of concussion severity are discussed and linked to recovery within the 1st week of injury.

Conclusions. High school athletes who had suffered mild concussion demonstrated significant declines in memory processes relative to a noninjured control group. Statistically significant differences between preseason and postinjury memory test results were still evident in the concussion group at 4 and 7 days postinjury. Self-reported neurological symptoms such as headache, dizziness, and nausea resolved by Day 4. Duration of on-field mental status changes such as retrograde amnesia and posttraumatic confusion was related to the presence of memory impairment at 36 hours and 4 and 7 days post-injury and was also related to slower resolution of self-reported symptoms. The results of this study suggest that caution should be exercised in returning high school athletes to the playing field following concussion. On-field mental status changes appear to have prognostic utility and should be taken into account when making return-to-play decisions following concussion. Athletes who exhibit on-field mental status changes for more than 5 minutes have longer-lasting postconcussion symptoms and memory decline.

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Zachary Spiera, Theodore Hannah, Adam Li, Nickolas Dreher, Naoum Fares Marayati, Muhammad Ali, Dhruv S. Shankar, John Durbin, Alexander J. Schupper, Alex Gometz, Mark Lovell, and Tanvir Choudhri

OBJECTIVE

Given concerns about the potential long-term effects of concussion in young athletes, concussion prevention has become a major focus for amateur sports leagues. Athletes have been known to frequently use anti-inflammatory medications to manage injuries, expedite return to play, and treat concussion symptoms. However, the effects of baseline nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) use on the susceptibility to head injury and concussion remain unclear. This study aims to assess the effects of preinjury NSAID use on concussion incidence, severity, and recovery in young athletes.

METHODS

Data from 25,815 ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) tests were obtained through a research agreement with ImPACT Applications Inc. Subjects ranged in age from 12 to 22 years old. Those who reported NSAID use at baseline were assigned to one (anti-inflammatory [AI]) cohort, whereas all others were assigned to the control (CT) cohort. Differences in head trauma and concussion incidence, severity, and recovery were assessed using chi-square tests, unpaired t-tests, and Kaplan-Meier plots.

RESULTS

The CT cohort comprised a higher percentage (p < 0.0001) of males (66.30%) than the AI cohort (44.16%) and had a significantly greater portion of athletes who played football (p = 0.004). However, no statistically significant differences were found between the two cohorts in terms of the incidence of head trauma (CT = 0.489, AI = 0.500, p = 0.9219), concussion incidence (CT = 0.175, AI = 0.169, p = 0.7201), injury severity, or median concussion recovery time (CT = 8, AI = 8, p = 0.6416). In a multivariable analysis controlling for baseline differences between the cohorts, no association was found between NSAID use and concussion incidence or severity.

CONCLUSIONS

In this analysis, the authors found no evidence that preinjury use of NSAIDs affects concussion risk in adolescent athletes. They also found no indication that preinjury NSAID use affects the severity of initial injury presentation or concussion recovery.

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Muhammad Ali, Nek Asghar, Adam Li, Theodore Hannah, Zachary Spiera, Naoum Fares Marayati, Nickolas Dreher, John Durbin, Alex Gometz, Mark Lovell, and Tanvir Choudhri

OBJECTIVE

Concussions in youth sports comprise an estimated 1.6–3.8 million annual injuries in the US. Sex, age, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have been identified as salient risk factors for concussion. This study seeks to evaluate the role of premorbid depression or anxiety (DA), with or without antidepressant use, on the incidence of concussion and the recovery of symptoms and neurocognitive dysfunction after concussion.

METHODS

Immediate Postconcussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) was administered to 7453 youth athletes at baseline. Throughout the season, concussions were examined by physicians and athletic trainers, followed by readministration of ImPACT postinjury (PI) and again at follow-up, a median of 7 days PI. Individuals were divided into three categories: 1) unmedicated athletes with DA (DA-only, n = 315), athletes taking antidepressants (DA-meds, n = 81), and those without DA or antidepressant use (non-DA, n = 7039). Concussion incidence was calculated as the total number of concussions per total number of patient-years. The recovery of neurocognitive measures PI was calculated as standardized deviations from baseline to PI and then follow-up in the 5 composite ImPACT scores: symptom score, verbal memory, visual memory, visual motor skills, and reaction time. Univariate results were confirmed with multivariate analysis.

RESULTS

There was no difference in concussion incidence between the DA-only cohort and the non-DA group. However, the DA-meds group had a significantly greater incidence of concussion than both the DA-only group (OR 2.67, 95% CI 1.88–7.18, p = 0.0001) and the non-DA group (OR 2.19, 95% CI 1.16–4.12, p = 0.02). Deviation from baseline in PI symptom scores was greater among the DA-meds group as compared to the non-DA group (OR 1.14, 95% CI 1.01–1.28, p = 0.03). At follow-up, the deviation from baseline in symptom scores remained elevated among the DA-meds group as compared to the non-DA group (OR 1.62, 95% CI 1.20–2.20, p = 0.002) and the DA-only group (OR 1.87, 95% CI 1.12–3.10, p = 0.02). Deviation from baseline in follow-up verbal memory was also greater among the DA-meds group as compared to both the non-DA group (OR 1.57, 95% CI 1.08–2.27, p = 0.02) and the DA-only group (OR 1.66, 95% CI 1.03–2.69, p = 0.04).

CONCLUSIONS

Premorbid DA itself does not seem to affect the incidence of concussion or the recovery of symptoms and neurocognitive dysfunction PI. However, antidepressant use for DA is associated with 1) increased concussion incidence and 2) elevated symptom scores and verbal memory scores up to 7 days after concussion, suggesting impaired symptomatic and neurocognitive recovery on ImPACT.

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Theodore C. Hannah, Roshini Kalagara, Muhammad Ali, Alexander J. Schupper, Adam Y. Li, Zachary Spiera, Naoum Fares Marayati, Addison Quinones, Zerubabbel K. Asfaw, Vikram Vasan, Eugene I. Hrabarchuk, Lily McCarthy, Alex Gometz, Mark Lovell, and Tanvir Choudhri

OBJECTIVE

Concussion incidence is known to be highest in children and adolescents; however, there is conflicting evidence about the effect of age on concussion risk and recovery within the adolescent age range. The heterogeneity of results may be partially due to the use of age groupings based on convenience, making comparisons across studies difficult. This study evaluated the independent effect of age on concussion incidence, severity, and recovery in student-athletes aged 12–18 years using cluster analysis to define groupings.

METHODS

Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) scores of 11,403 baseline tests and 4922 postinjury tests were used to calculate the incidence rates for adolescent student-athletes grouped into 3 age bands (12–13, 14–15, and 16–18 years of age) on the basis of clustering analysis. The recently created Severity Index was used to compare concussion severity between groups. Follow-up tests for subjects who sustained a concussion were used to evaluate recovery time. The chi-square test and 1-way ANOVA were used to compare differences in demographic characteristics and concussion incidence, severity, and recovery. Multivariable logistic and linear regressions were used to evaluate the independent effects of age on concussion incidence and severity, respectively. Multivariable Cox hazard regression was used to evaluate differences in recovery time. Further analyses were conducted to directly compare findings across studies on the basis of the age groupings used in prior studies.

RESULTS

Multivariable regression analyses demonstrated that the 14- to 15-year-old age group had a significantly higher concussion incidence than both the 12- to 13-year-old (14- to 15-year-old group vs 12- to 13-year-old group, OR 1.57, 95% CI 1.16–2.17, p = 0.005) and 16- to 18-year-old (16- to 18-year-old group vs 14- to 15-year-old group, OR 0.79, 95% CI 0.69–0.91, p = 0.0008) age groups. There was no difference in incidence between the 12- to 13-year-old and 16- to 18-year-old groups (16- to 18-year group vs 12- to 13-year group, OR 1.26, 95% CI 0.93–1.72, p = 0.15). There were also no differences in concussion severity or recovery between any groups.

CONCLUSIONS

This study found that concussion incidence was higher during mid-adolescence than early and late adolescence, suggesting a U-shaped relationship between age and concussion risk over the course of adolescence. Age had no independent effect on concussion severity or recovery in the 12- to 13-, 14- to 15-, and 16- to 18-year-old groups. Further analysis of the various age groups revealed that results may vary significantly with minor changes to groupings, which may explain the divergent results in the current literature on this topic. Thus, caution should be taken when interpreting the results of this and all similar studies, especially when groupings are based on convenience.