THURSDAY, Aug. 8, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Testing young athletes' memory and thinking skills after they've suffered a concussion is a more accurate way of assessing whether they have recovered, rather than relying on them to report symptoms, a new study suggests.
Guidelines for returning to play after concussion have relied on athletes' self-reports of symptoms, but there are concerns that they are not able to truly recognize their own symptoms and recovery.
And when it comes to sports, the study authors noted, cheerleading has the highest rate of catastrophic injury, with concussion accounting for an estimated 6 percent of total injuries.
The new study included 138 junior and senior high school cheerleaders who suffered a concussion and underwent at least one follow-up evaluation within seven days of their injury. The evaluation was done using Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT), which assesses memory and thinking skills.
Sixty-two percent of the cheerleaders reported symptoms such as headache, nausea and dizziness after concussion. Of those who said they had no symptoms, 33 percent had at least one ImPACT score that showed evidence of concussion, the investigators found.
That means that these cheerleaders reported their symptoms inaccurately, overestimated their recovery, or were unaware of problems with their memory and thinking, according to the study authors. The report is scheduled for publication in an upcoming issue of The Journal of Pediatrics.
"It is common knowledge that athletes may at times minimize or deny symptoms after injury to avoid being removed from competition," study co-author Dr. Gary Solomon, of Vanderbilt University, said in a journal news release.
The findings support the use of memory and skills testing after concussion, and also show that doctors should be cautious about giving athletes who've suffered a concussion the go-ahead to return to play based solely on the athlete's self-reported symptoms, the researchers pointed out.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about concussion.