High school athletes required 1 month of recovery after concussion


June 10, 2020

Published results showed high school athletes required 1 month of recovery after concussion before returning to sport, with longer recovery time among female athletes, players with a history of concussion and those with a delayed diagnosis.

Toufic R. Jildeh, MD, and colleagues collected demographic data, return to sport and concussion-related variables of 357 youth patients who sustained concussions between September 2013 and December 2016. Researchers also collected immediate post-concussion assessment and cognitive testing (ImPACT) metrics of verbal memory, visual memory, motor speed, reaction time, impulse control and cognitive efficiency index, and symptom scores at baseline and following concussions.

Prior to return to sport, high school athletes required approximately 30 days of recovery, while athletes with recurrent concussions required approximately 35 days of rest, according to Jildeh.

“This finding showed agreement with more recent studies that high school athletes return to play in 30 days, which suggests compliance with contemporary return-to-play guidelines,” Jildeh told Healio Orthopedics. “Furthermore, the increased return-to-play time required by those who sustained a repeat concussion suggests that prior concussions may have lingering effects and that incomplete recovery may cause additive cortical and subcortical pathogenesis.”

For athletes who sustained multiple concussions during the study period, results showed an increase in mean ImPACT verbal memory and visual memory scores between baseline ImPACT scores and ImPACT scores after one and two concussions. Athletes with a history of concussion had a significant increase in visual memory vs. athletes without a concussion, according to results. Jildeh noted this suggests patients gain familiarity and comfort with ImPACT testing after sustaining multiple concussions, allowing patients to perform the memory tasks more accurately and expeditiously.

“When evaluating other ImPACT scores more representative of cognitive function, our study found a reliable decline in average visual motor speed and reaction time,” Jildeh said. “These ImPACT domains are not as susceptible to learning, and thus show a dose-related decrease in score as athletes sustain repeated concussions. Orthopedic surgeons must be mindful of this phenomenon when evaluating patients for return-to-play readiness.”

Athletes with a history of concussion, female patients and patients diagnosed in the clinic had significantly longer return-to-sport times, according to results of a multivariable linear model that controlled for possible covariates.

“These findings suggest that athletes with delayed diagnosis and longer return to sport lead to delayed initiation of treatment, and this underscores the importance of vigilance and prompt diagnosis of concussions, particularly for orthopedic surgeons taking care of these patients, whether they are on the sidelines or tending to a patient sustaining a head injury during a trauma,” Jildeh said.

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