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Identification of Postconcussion Dual-Task Gait Abnormalities Using Normative Reference Values

David R. Howell, Thomas A. Buckley, Brant Berkstresser, Francis Wang, and William P. Meehan III

The purpose of this study was to identify the rate of abnormal single-task and dual-task gait performance following concussion compared to uninjured controls using previously established normative reference values. The authors examined athletes with a concussion (n = 54; mean age = 20.3 [1.1] y, 46% female, tested 2.9 [1.5] d postinjury), and healthy controls were tested during their preseason baseline examination (n = 60; mean age = 18.9 [0.7] y, 37% female). Participants completed an instrumented single-/dual-task gait evaluation. Outcome variables included average walking speed, cadence, and step length. A significantly greater number of those with concussion walked with abnormal dual-task gait speed compared with the control group (56% vs 30%, P = .01). After adjusting for potential confounding variables (age, concussion history, symptom severity, and sleep), concussion was associated with lower dual-task gait speed (β = −0.150; 95% confidence interval [CI] = −0.252 to −0.047), cadence (β = −8.179; 95% CI = −14.49 to −1.871), and stride length (β = −0.109; 95% CI = −0.204 to −0.014). Although group analyses indicated that those with a concussion performed worse on single-task and dual-task gait compared with controls, a higher rate of abnormal gait was detected for the concussion group compared with the control group for dual-task gait speed only. Dual-task gait speed, therefore, may be considered as a measure to compare against normative values to detect postconcussion impairments.

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Lack of Sleep Among Adolescent Athletes Is Associated With a Higher Prevalence of Self-Reported History of Anxiety and Depression

Andrea Stracciolini, Caitlin M. McCracken, William P. Meehan III, and Matthew D. Milewski

Purpose: To study mental health, sleep duration, and daytime sleepiness in young athletes. Methods: A cross-sectional questionnaire study was conducted. The main outcome measures included sleep duration and daytime sleepiness. Results: Study participants included 756 athletes with a mean age of 13.5 years. A total of 39% (n = 296/756) reported not meeting current sleep recommendations for age. Athletes >12 years and with a self-reported anxiety and/or depression history were less likely to meet sleep recommendations and showed higher daytime sleepiness (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 1.29, 95% confidence interval [CI] [1.2, 1.4], β [SE] = 3.06 [0.74], respectively). Athletes with goal-oriented reasons for playing versus enjoyment (52% vs. 35%, aOR = 1.70, 95% CI [1.12, 2.58]) were less likely to meet sleep recommendations. Night time internet access and weeknight homework hours were negatively associated with sleep recommendations (aOR = 1.68, 95% CI [1.68, 2.47] and aOR = 3.11, 95% CI [1.82, 5.3]) and positively associated with daytime sleepiness (β [SE] = 1.44 [0.45] and 2.28 [0.59]). Conclusions: Many young athletes are not meeting sleep recommendations. Associated factors include mental health, reasons for play, internet access, and homework demand.

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The Nocebo Effect and Pediatric Concussion

Michael W. Kirkwood, David R. Howell, Brian L. Brooks, Julie C. Wilson, and William P. Meehan III

While placebo effects are well recognized within clinical medicine, “nocebo effects” have received much less attention. Nocebo effects are problems caused by negative expectations derived from information or treatment provided during a clinical interaction. In this review, we examine how nocebo effects may arise following pediatric concussion and how they may worsen symptoms or prolong recovery. We offer several suggestions to prevent, lessen, or eliminate such effects. We provide recommendations for clinicians in the following areas: terminology selection, explicit and implicit messaging to patients, evidence-based recommendations, and awareness of potential biases during clinical interactions. Clinicians should consider the empirically grounded suggestions when approaching the care of pediatric patients with concussion.

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Ankle Sprain History Does Not Significantly Alter Single- and Dual-Task Spatiotemporal Gait Mechanics

Sarah B. Willwerth, Landon B. Lempke, Vipul Lugade, William P. Meehan III, David R. Howell, and Alexandra F. DeJong Lempke

Context: Single- and dual-task walking gait assessments have been used to identify persistent movement and cognitive dysfunction among athletes with concussions. However, it is unclear whether previous ankle sprain injuries confound these outcomes during baseline testing. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of (1) ankle sprain history and (2) time since prior ankle sprain injury on single- and dual-task spatiotemporal gait outcomes and cognitive measures. Design: Cross-sectional study. Methods: We assessed 60 college Division-I athletes (31 with ankle sprain history; 13 females and 18 males, 19.3 [0.8] y; 29 with no ankle sprain history, 14 females and 15 males, 19.7 [0.9] y) who completed injury history forms and underwent concussion baseline testing. Athletes completed single- and dual-task gait assessments by walking back and forth along an 8-m walkway for 40 seconds. Athletes wore a smartphone with an associated mobile application on their lumbar spine to record spatiotemporal gait parameters and dual-task cognitive performance. Separate multivariate analyses of variance were used to assess the effects of ankle sprain injury history on spatiotemporal measures, gait variability, and cognitive performance. We performed a multivariate regression subanalysis on athletes who reported time since injury (n = 23) to assess temporal effects on gait and cognitive performance. Results: Athletes with and without a history of ankle sprains had comparable spatiotemporal and gait variability outcomes during single- (P = .42; P = .13) and dual-task (P = .75; P = .55) conditions. Additionally, ankle sprain injury history did not significantly influence cognitive performance (P = .35). Finally, time since ankle sprain did not significantly affect single- (P = .75) and dual-task gait (P = .69), nor cognitive performance (P = .19). Conclusions: Ankle sprain injury history did not significantly alter spatiotemporal gait outcomes nor cognitive performance during this common clinical assessment. Future studies may consider including athletes with ankle sprain injury history during concussion assessments.

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Single-Task and Dual-Task Gait Among Collegiate Athletes of Different Sport Classifications: Implications for Concussion Management

David R. Howell, Jessie R. Oldham, Melissa DiFabio, Srikant Vallabhajosula, Eric E. Hall, Caroline J. Ketcham, William P. Meehan III, and Thomas A. Buckley

Gait impairments have been documented following sport-related concussion. Whether preexisting gait pattern differences exist among athletes who participate in different sport classifications, however, remains unclear. Dual-task gait examinations probe the simultaneous performance of everyday tasks (ie, walking and thinking), and can quantify gait performance using inertial sensors. The purpose of this study was to compare the single-task and dual-task gait performance of collision/contact and noncontact athletes. A group of collegiate athletes (n = 265) were tested before their season at 3 institutions (mean age= 19.1 ± 1.1 years). All participants stood still (single-task standing) and walked while simultaneously completing a cognitive test (dual-task gait), and completed walking trials without the cognitive test (single-task gait). Spatial-temporal gait parameters were compared between collision/contact and noncontact athletes using MANCOVAs; cognitive task performance was compared using ANCOVAs. No significant single-task or dual-task gait differences were found between collision/contact and noncontact athletes. Noncontact athletes demonstrated higher cognitive task accuracy during single-task standing (P = .001) and dual-task gait conditions (P = .02) than collision/contact athletes. These data demonstrate the utility of a dual-task gait assessment outside of a laboratory and suggest that preinjury cognitive task performance during dual-tasks may differ between athletes of different sport classifications.

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Transition (From Sport) Experiences of Former National Football League Players: An NFL-LONG Study

J.D. DeFreese, Erianne A. Weight, Landon B. Lempke, Samuel R. Walton, Zachary Yukio Kerr, Benjamin L. Brett, Avinash Chandran, Rebekah Mannix, Ruben J. Echemendia, Michael A. McCrea, William P. Meehan III, and Kevin M. Guskiewicz

Transition from professional football life has important implications for the health and well-being of former National Football League (NFL) players. The study purpose was to examine former NFL players’ experiences of transitioning from sport including factors that helped and factors that made transition difficult. This study used a convenience sample of former NFL players drawn from a larger study of health and function. Participants included 1,784 former NFL players, mean age = 52.3 ± 16.3 years, 59% White, and a discontinuation mean of 24.0 ± 15.6 years after leaving the league. Participants responded to open-ended transition questions via mail or electronic questionnaire with responses analyzed using conceptual content analysis. The most frequently reported factors that helped transition included career transition plan/options (48%) and social support (40%). Whereas, structure- (33%) and identity-related (23%) difficulties were reported as factors that made transition difficult. Findings identify areas for targeted interventions to enhance NFL player well-being during transition from sport.