Concussion Study Results Available

The committee examined data on the effects of single and multiple concussions and found some observed impairments in the areas of memory and processing speed.  It also determined that a history of previous concussions is a predictor of increased risk for future concussions, although the extent to which the risk is increased is unknown.  In several studies, the number and severity of concussion symptoms is greater in athletes with a history of two or more concussions.  Additionally, athletes with a history of prior concussions may have more severe subsequent concussions and may take longer to recover.  The time interval between concussions may also be an important factor in the risk for and the severity of subsequent concussions.  Whether repetitive head impacts and multiple concussions sustained in youth lead to long-term neurodegenerative disease, such as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), remains unclear.

The committee reviewed surveys of retired professional athletes, which provided some evidence that a history of multiple concussions increases risk for depression.  In a survey of more than 2,500 retired professional football players, approximately 11 percent reported having a prior or current diagnosis of clinical depression.  Very little research has evaluated the relationship between concussions and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.  There currently are no data to evaluate this relationship because existing post-concussion symptom evaluations do not assess suicidal thoughts.

Some studies have shown that enforcement of sports rules by coaches and officials and adherence to these rules by players may help reduce the incidence and severity of sport-related concussions in youths.  Several organizations have called for a “hit count” in youth sports to limit the amount of head contact a particular player should experience over a given amount of time.  While the concept of limiting the number of head impacts is fundamentally sound, the committee found that implementing a specific threshold for the number of impacts or the magnitude of impacts per week or per season is without scientific basis.

The committee included additional noteworthy findings in the report:

  • The      reported number of individuals aged 19 and under treated in U.S. emergency      departments for concussions and other non-fatal, sports- and      recreation-related TBIs increased from 150,000 in 2001 to 250,000 in 2009.
  • Football,      ice hockey, lacrosse, wrestling, and soccer are associated with the      highest rates of reported concussions for U.S. male athletes at the high      school and college levels.
  • Soccer,      lacrosse, and basketball are associated with the highest rates of reported      concussions for U.S. female athletes at the high school and college      levels.  Women’s ice hockey at the collegiate level has the highest      rate of reported concussions.
  • Youths      with a history of prior concussion have higher rates of reported      sports-related concussions.
  • Among      military personnel, mild traumatic brain injuries, of which concussions      are one category, represent about 85 percent of all TBIs.
  • Among      military personnel, about 80 percent of mild TBIs do not occur in the      deployed setting and are commonly caused by automobile crashes involving      privately owned and military vehicles, falls, sports and recreation activities, and military training.

The report was sponsored by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Education, Health Resources and Services Administration, National Athletic Trainers’ Association Research and Education Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the CDC Foundation with support from the National Football League.  The Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council are part of the National Academy of Sciences, a private, nonprofit institution that provides independent, evidence-based advice under an 1863 congressional charter.  The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.

Pre-publication copies of Sports-Related Concussions in Youth: Improving the Science, Changing the Culture are available from the National Academies Press on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu or by calling tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242.  Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed below).

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