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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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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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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.