Clinical affect and sensory correlates in adolescent sports concussions

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Abstract

Objective

Identifying risk factors is important in adolescent sports concussions. This study aimed to explore the relationship between affective symptoms and physical symptoms in youth concussions.

Design

Athletes were split into two groups: self-reported emotional symptoms (irritability/aggression, anxiety, depression, apathy, and/or labile mood; EMO, n=22) and a control group without emotional symptoms (CON, n=15). Groups were examined for differences between post-concussive symptoms and peri-concussive factors.

Setting

Outpatient clinic.

Participants

37 concussed adolescents age 12–17 with persisting concussion symptoms were assessed. Concussion diagnoses were indicated by traumatically induced alterations in mental status (with or without LOC), disruption in brain functioning (memory loss/neurological deficits), and other physiologic symptoms post-concussion. Those with baseline psychiatric history and/or special education were excluded.

Assessment of risk factors

Post-concussive symptom variable relationships were assessed.

Outcome measures

group differences were analysed using ANOVAs.

Results

No differences between positive LOC, positive amnesia, or post-concussive criteria existed, indicating likely comparable severity. While there were no group differences for number of concussions, headaches, or nausea, those in EMO were significantly more likely to endorse photo-sensitivity (p=0.003, F=10.155) and phono-sensitivity (p=0.007, F=8.108). Both anxiety and irritability/aggression were significantly (p<0.05) correlated with endorsement of attention difficulties (r=0.332, r=0.474, respectively). Family psychiatric history was not correlated with emotional difficulties post-concussion.

Conclusions

Results indicate that adolescents who self-report emotional difficulties following sports concussion are more likely to endorse some physical symptoms, particularly photo-sensitivity and phono-sensitivity. Those experiencing anxiety or irritability are also more likely to experience increased attentional difficulties.

Competing interests

None.

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