Researchers Zero in on Risk Factors for Prolonged Sports Concussion Symptoms; Impact Seen of Return to Play Guidelines

Researchers at the University of Washington have found clear, identifiable factors that signal whether an athlete will experience concussive symptoms beyond one week.

The researchers sought to identify risk factors for prolonged concussion symptoms by examining a large national database of high school athletes’ injuries.

Previous concussion studies were limited in scope, focusing only on male football players. The information from this study applies to male and female athletes from a number of different sports.

Researchers found that athletes who have four or more symptoms at initial injury were more likely to have persistent concussive symptoms. Drowsiness, concentration difficulties, nausea and sensitivity to light and noise were also associated with longer-lasting concussive symptoms.

The results of this study could change how long high school athletes are kept from returning to play after a concussion. Previously, athletes who lost consciousness were held out from playing longer than those who did not lose consciousness, but the study found little correlation between loss of consciousness and persistent symptoms.

Dr. Sara P. D. Chrisman, an adolescent medicine fellow in the University of Washington Department of Pediatrics, headed the study.

“The medical community is becoming more aware that concussions may not be a minor injury and may result in prolonged symptoms,” she said. “This is a step towards developing evidence-based return to play guidelines.”

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