Concussed elite athletes have better tandem gait performance

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Abstract

Objective

Describe tandem gait score performance in concussed elite athletes as compared to asymptomatic baselines.

Design

Within subjects, repeated measures.

Setting

United States Olympic Committee Sports Medicine Clinics

Participants

Six hundred forty-one elite athletes (291 women and 350 men, mean age 24.9±5.2 years) representing 23 Olympic sports participated in this study.

Intervention

The SCAT3 was administered during a preseason baseline and repeated as clinically indicated during initial evaluations and serially as part of a multimodal concussion management program.

Outcome measures

SCAT3 performance measures of concussed elite athletes were compared to baseline SCAT3 performance.

Results

Tandem gait performance was significantly better in concussed elite athletes than on athletes tested for healthy asymptomatic baselines (9.6 vs. 11.7, P<0.001), despite concussed athletes reporting significantly higher total number of symptoms (6.4 vs. 2.1, P<0.001) and symptom severity scores (13.1 vs. 3.4, P<0.001) during concussion recovery.

Conclusions

There is a paradoxical relationship between concussion status and tandem gait performance in elite athletes, with concussed athletes performing better on average than athletes evaluated for a baseline SCAT3 evaluation.

Clinical Relevance

Tandem gait performance is not impaired in athletes with symptoms of concussion. Intrinsic motivation to return to play may result in enhanced tandem gait performance in concussed athletes.

Competing interests

None.

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