Sport-related concussion (SRC) has emerged as a public health problem, especially among student-athletes. Whereas most concussions resolve by 2 weeks, a minority of patients experience postconcussion syndrome (PCS), in which symptoms persist for months. The objective of this study was to elucidate factors predictive of PCS among a sample of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) student-athletes in the academic years 2009–2010 to 2014–2015.
The SRC data originated from the NCAA Injury Surveillance Program (ISP) in the 2009–2010 to 2014–2015 academic seasons. The NCAA ISP is a prospective database made up of a convenience sample of schools across all divisions. All SRCs are reported by certified athletic trainers. The PCS group consisted of concussed student-athletes with concussion-related symptoms that lasted ≥ 4 weeks. The non-PCS group consisted of concussed student-athletes with symptom resolution in ≤ 2 weeks. Those with symptoms that resolved in the intermediate area of 2–4 weeks were excluded. Odds ratios (ORs) were estimated using logistic regression.
During the 2009–2010 to 2014–2015 seasons, 1507 NCAA student-athletes sustained an SRC, 112 (7.4%) of whom developed PCS (i.e., concussion-related symptoms that lasted ≥ 4 weeks). Men's ice hockey contributed the largest proportion of concussions to the PCS group (28.6%), whereas men's football contributed the largest proportion of concussions in the non-PCS group (38.6%). In multivariate analysis, recurrent concussion was associated with increased odds of PCS (OR 2.08, 95% CI 1.28–3.36). Concussion symptoms that were also associated with increased odds of PCS included retrograde amnesia (OR 2.75, 95% CI 1.34–5.64), difficulty concentrating (OR 2.35, 95% CI 1.23–4.50), sensitivity to light (OR 1.97, 95% CI 1.09–3.57), and insomnia (OR 2.19, 95% CI 1.30–3.68). Contact level, sex, and loss of consciousness were not associated with PCS.
Postconcussion syndrome represents one of the most impactful sequelae of SRC. In this study of exclusively collegiate student-athletes, the authors found that recurrent concussions and various concussion-related symptoms were associated with PCS. The identification of initial risk factors for the development of PCS may assist sports medicine clinicians in providing timely interventions and treatments to prevent morbidity and shorten recovery time after SRC.