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  • Author: Johna K. Register-Mihalik x
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Tamara C. Valovich McLeod and Johna K. Register-Mihalik

Patient Scenario:

An adolescent female youth soccer athlete, with a previous concussion history, suffered a second concussion 4 wk ago. Her postconcussive symptoms are affecting her school performance and social and family life.

Clinical Outcomes Assessment:

Concussion is typically evaluated via symptoms, cognition, and balance. There is no specific patient-oriented outcomes measure for concussion. Clinicians can choose from a variety of generic and specific outcomes instruments aimed at assessing general health-related quality of life or various concussion symptoms and comorbidities such as headache, migraine, fatigue, mood disturbances, depression, anxiety, and concussion-related symptoms.

Clinical Decision Making:

The data obtained from patient self-report instruments may not actively help clinicians make return-to-play decisions; however, these scales may be useful in providing information that may help the athlete return to school, work, and social activities. The instruments may also serve to identify issues that may lead to problems down the road, including depression or anxiety, or serve to further explore the nature of an athlete’s symptoms.

Clinical Bottom Line:

Concussion results in numerous symptoms that have the potential to linger and has been associated with depression and anxiety. The use of outcomes scales to assess health-related quality of life and the effect of other symptoms that present with a concussion may allow clinicians to better evaluate the effects of concussion on physical, cognitive, emotional, social, school, and family issues, leading to better and more complete management.

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Corey P. Ochs, Melissa C. Kay, and Johna K. Register-Mihalik

Clinical Scenario: Collision sports are often at higher risk of concussion due to the physical nature and style of play. Typically, initial clinical recovery occurs within 7 to 10 days; however, even this time frame may result in significant time lost from play. Little has been done in previous research to analyze how individual game performance may be affected upon return to play postconcussion. Focused Clinical Question: Upon return-to-play clearance, how does sport-related concussion affect game performance of professional athletes in collision sports? Summary of Key Findings: All 3 studies included found no significant change in individual performance of professional collision-sport athletes upon returning to play from concussive injury. One of the studies indicated that there was no difference in performance for NFL athletes who did not miss a single game (returned within 7 d) and those who missed at least 1 game. One study indicated that although there was no change in performance of NFL players upon returning to play from sustained concussion, there was a decline in performance in the 2 weeks before the diagnosed injury and appearing on the injury report. The final study indicated that there was no difference in performance or style of play of NHL athletes who missed time due to concussive injury when compared with athletes who missed games for a noninjury factor. Clinical Bottom Line: There was no change in performance upon return from concussive injury suggesting that players appear to be acutely recovered from the respective concussion before returning to play. This suggests that current policies and management properly evaluate and treat concussed athletes of these professional sports. Strength of Recommendation: Grade C evidence exists that there is no change in individual game performance in professional collision-sport athletes before and after suffering a concussion.

Open access

Brittany M. Ingram, Melissa C. Kay, Christina B. Vander Vegt, and Johna K. Register-Mihalik

Clinical Scenario: Current studies have identified body checking as the most common cause of sports-related concussion in ice hockey across all divisions and levels. As a result, many hockey organizations, particularly in youth sports, have implemented rules making body checking to the head, face, and/or neck illegal. Such a rule, in Canada, makes age 13 the first age in which individuals can engage in body checking. Despite these changes, effectiveness of their implementation on the incidence of concussion in Canadian male youth ice hockey players remains unclear. Clinical Question: What is the effect of body checking policy changes on concussion incidence in male youth ice hockey players? Summary of Key Findings: Of the 3 included studies, 2 studies reported a decrease in the incidence of concussion once a body checking policy change was implemented. The third study showed an increase; however, it is important to note that this may be due, in part, to increased awareness leading to better reporting of injuries. Clinical Bottom Line: Current evidence supports a relationship between body checking policy implementation and decreased concussion incidence; however, more research is needed to understand the long-term implications of policy change and the effects in other leagues. In addition, further data are needed to differentiate between increased concussion incidence resulting from concussion education efforts that may improve disclosure and increased concussion incidence as a direct result of policy changes. Strength of Recommendation: Grade B evidence exists that policy changes regarding body checking decrease concussion incidence in male youth ice hockey players.

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Rebecca L. Dubas, Elizabeth F. Teel, Melissa C. Kay, Eric D. Ryan, Meredith A. Petschauer, and Johna K. Register-Mihalik

Context: Currently, there is no gold standard to evaluate the effect of varying game-like exertion states on Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 3rd Edition (SCAT-3) outcomes. Baseline assessments may occur before, during, or after physical activity, while postinjury evaluations predominantly occur following physical activity. Thus, clinicians may be comparing postinjury evaluations completed following exertion to baseline evaluations completed following varying levels of rest or exertion, which may not be a valid method for clinical decision making. Objective: To determine the effect of various physical exertion levels on sideline concussion assessment outcomes and reliability. Design: Within-subjects, repeated measures. Setting: Field. Participants: Physically active participants (N = 36) who regularly participate in basketball activity. Intervention: Subjects participated in 2 simulated basketball games, completing a symptom checklist, Standardized Assessment of Concussion, and Balance Error Scoring System before game play, during halftime, and at the completion of each simulated game. Pulse rate was assessed as a proxy of physical exertion. Main Outcome Measures: Total symptom, Standardized Assessment of Concussion, and Balance Error Scoring System scores. Results: Physical exertion did not significantly predict symptom, Standardized Assessment of Concussion, or Balance Error Scoring System scores, although a trend toward higher symptom scores was observed for females (ß = 0.03, P = .09). All assessments had poor to moderate reliability across sessions (.15 < interclass correlation coefficient [2,1] < .60). Conclusion: Low- to moderate-intensity physical activity did not have a significant effect on clinical concussion sideline assessments; however, the low test–retest reliability observed prevents strong conclusions on these relationships. The poor overall reliability does not allow for clear recommendations for what state of baseline physical exertion (ie, rested or exerted) provides optimal data to make postinjury clinical decisions, although baseline concussion assessments completed at rest have the most valid and conservative normative values for injury comparison.

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Elizabeth F. Teel, Stephen W. Marshall, L. Gregory Appelbaum, Claudio L. Battaglini, Kevin A. Carneiro, Kevin M. Guskiewicz, Johna K. Register-Mihalik, and Jason P. Mihalik

Context: Concussion management is moving from passive rest strategies to active interventions, including aerobic exercise therapy. Little information is available regarding the feasibility and adherence of these programs. Objectives: To determine whether an aerobic exercise training program intended for rehabilitation in people with concussion is feasible. Healthy, nonconcussed subjects were studied in this phase 1 trial. Design: Phase 1 parallel-group, randomized controlled trial in a sample of healthy (nonconcussed), recreationally active university students. Setting: Laboratory. Patients: 40 healthy university students. Methods: Participants were equally randomized to acute concussion therapy intervention (ACTIVE) training or nontraining groups. All participants completed maximal cardiopulmonary exercise tests on a stationary cycle ergometer at 2 test sessions approximately 14 days apart. During this 2-week study period, ACTIVE training participants completed six 30-minute cycling sessions, progressing from 60% to 80% of the participant’s individualized maximal oxygen consumption. A subset of participants (NACTIVE = 12, Nnontraining = 11) wore physical activity monitors throughout the 2-week study period. Main Outcomes Measures: Study protocol and randomization effectiveness, exercise safety and adherence, and progressive intensity of the ACTIVE training procedures. Results: No adverse events occurred during any exercise sessions. Twelve ACTIVE training participants (60%) completed all training sessions, and every participant completed at least 4 sessions. Heart rate increased throughout the training period (P < .001), but symptom changes and training adherence remained stable despite the progressively increasing workload. ACTIVE training participants completed approximately 30 additional minutes of physical activity on training sessions days, although that was not statistically significant (P = .20). Conclusions: University-aged students were adherent to the ACTIVE training protocol. Future research should investigate the safety and feasibility of aerobic training programs in acutely concussed individuals to determine their appropriateness as a clinical rehabilitation strategy.

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Luke M. Ross, Johna K. Register-Mihalik, Jason P. Mihalik, Karen L. McCulloch, William E. Prentice, Edgar W. Shields, and Kevin M. Guskiewicz

Context:

Recent evidence has revealed deficiencies in the ability to divide attention after concussion.

Objective:

To examine the effects of a single vs a dual task on cognition and balance in healthy subjects and to examine reliability of 2 dual-task paradigms while examining the overall feasibility of the tasks.

Design:

Pretest–posttest experimental design.

Setting:

Sports medicine research laboratory.

Patients:

30 healthy, recreationally active college students.

Intervention:

Subjects performed balance and cognitive tasks under the single- and dual-task conditions during 2 test sessions 14 d apart.

Main Outcome Measures:

The procedural reaction-time (PRT) test of the Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics (eyes-closed tasks) and an adapted Procedural Auditory Task (PAT; eyes-open tasks) were used to assess cognition. The NeuroCom Sensory Organization Test (SOT) and the Balance Error Scoring System (BESS) were used to assess balance performance. Five 2-way, within-subject ANOVAs and a paired-samples t test were used to analyze the data. ICCs were used to assess reliability across 2 test sessions.

Results:

On the SOT, performance significantly improved between test sessions (F1,29 = 35.695, P < .001) and from the single to the dual task (F1,29 = 9.604, P = .004). On the PRT, performance significantly improved between test sessions (F1,29 = 57.252, P < .001) and from the single to the dual task (F1,29 = 7.673, P = .010). No differences were seen on the BESS and the PAT. Reliability across test sessions ranged from moderate to poor for outcome measure.

Conclusions:

The BESS appears to be a more reliable and functional tool in dual-task conditions as a result of its increased reliability and clinical applicability. In addition, the BESS is more readily available to clinicians than the SOT.

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Johna K. Register, Jason P. Mihalik, Christopher J. Hirth, and Thomas E. Brickner

Column-editor : Joseph J. Piccininni