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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Test Evaluates Teen Athletes With Concussions

Neuropsychological Testing Keeps Athletes With Concussions on Sidelines Longer
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 30, 2010 -- High school athletes who undergo computerized neuropsychological testing of their brain function after suffering a concussion are more likely to be sidelined than other injured players, a new study shows.

Researchers say that when computerized neuropsychological testing is used, athletes with concussions are less likely than other injured players to be returned to competition within a week of their injury.

The study is published in the December 2010 issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Spotting Brain Damage

Computerized neuropsychological testing involves a battery of cognitive tests designed to objectively assess brain function after head trauma.

Such tests often are performed on athletes before playing seasons start to establish a baseline measure of their responses to questions, which then can be used for comparison purposes after a head injury such as a concussion.

Researchers say football players with concussions are less likely to undergo computerized neuropsychological testing than are participants in other sports.

Data on Sports Concussions

Using a database of 544 concussions among high school athletes from 2008-2009, researchers reported that:

  • 76% were caused by contact with another player, usually a head-to-head collision.
  • 93.4% had headaches, and 4.6% unconsciousness.
  • 83.4% of injured players' symptoms cleared up within a week, but it took more than a month for 1.5%.

Of all concussions evaluated, only 27.5% of athletes underwent computerized neurological testing. But they also were found to be less likely to return to action within a week, compared to athletes who weren’t assessed with computerized neuropsychological testing.

“Although it is now recognized as one of ‘the cornerstones of concussion evaluation, routine neuropsychological testing in the setting of sports-related concussion is a relatively new concept,” the researchers write.

They say their study is the first “to query the use of computerized neuropsychological testing in high school athletes using a large, nationally representative sample.”

The study also found that:

  • 51.7% of injuries were recorded in varsity players vs. 30.1% in junior varsity players.
  • 68.5% of injuries occurred during competition, rather than in practice.
  • In 89.5% of cases, the diagnosed concussion was the athlete’s first.
  • 28% of the concussions occurred in 16-year-olds.

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