More Than One Sign of Concussion

Loss of consciousness not the only indicator of injury

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THURSDAY, Aug. 28, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Athletes who suffer a severe concussion don't always lose consciousness but may suffer amnesia or confusion, says a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center study.

"Athletes may sustain a severe concussion without losing consciousness. Amnesia and confusion on the field after injury may be as important, if not more important, in making a return-to-play decision," study lead author Mark R. Lovell, director of the sports concussion program, says in a news release.

He and his colleagues evaluated 181 high school and college athletes with sports-related concussions. Of those, 30 had lost consciousness while the 151 had not been knocked out.

"We recommend that anyone who is thought to have had a concussion not be put back into athletic contest until he or she has been thoroughly evaluated by a physician and undergone neuropsychological testing. This is especially important with athletes 18 years of age and younger because their brains are still developing," Lovell says.

The study was released at the recent annual meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine.

In another study released at the meeting, researchers tested a simple, data-based method to measure concussion severity. The Immediate Post-concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test (ImPACT) evaluates different areas of the brain that are sensitive to concussion.

ImPACT does this by measuring reaction time, processing speed, cognitive ability and memory. The test is used by many national and international sports organizations, as well as hundreds of American colleges, universities and high schools.

In the study of 231 concussed high school and college athletes and 50 non-concussed control subjects, the researchers found ImPACT accurately identified the concussed athletes. They also found it can take up to 10 days to recover from concussion, even though many athletes report improved symptoms by the fifth day after their concussion.

There are about 300,00 sports-related concussions each year in the United States. At least 62,000 of those are suffered during high school contact sports. About 34 percent of college football players have sustained a concussion and 20 percent have had multiple concussions.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about concussion.

SOURCE: American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, news release, August 2003
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