What is the lowest threshold to make a diagnosis of concussion?

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Abstract

Objective

The purpose of this review is to examine the evidence for determining the lowest threshold for diagnosing a sport-related concussion.

Data Sources

MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE, Mosby's Index, PsycEXTRA, PsycINFO and Scopus. Key words included sports concussion, concussion assessment, diagnosis, concussion symptoms, onfield assessment and sports-related traumatic brain injury.

Results

The majority of concussions in sport occur without loss of consciousness or frank neurological signs. Some of the hallmark signs of acute concussion include mental confusion, memory and balance disturbance. Over the course of the first 24 h, the most common symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness and balance problems, blurred vision or other visual disturbance, confusion, memory loss and ‘fatigue’. Symptoms such as tiredness, irritability, nervousness or anxiety, sleep disturbance and sensitivity to light or noise may be noticed in the days after injury. The pathophysiology of sports concussion remains poorly understood. There appears to be a period of vulnerability following concussion in which an overlapping injury might cause magnified pathophysiology.

Conclusions

Sport-related concussions can be difficult to diagnose. Concussion produces an evolving constellation of somatic, cognitive and neurobehavioral symptoms that are typically most severe during the earliest acute postinjury period (ie, within the first 24–48 h) and diminish over a matter of several days to weeks in the majority of athletes. Athletes suspected of concussion should be removed from play and evaluated thoroughly.

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