Interest and concern about late effects of concussion in contact sports has been growing, although research on long-term health outcome is limited. There has been particular concern with regard to neurodegenerative changes that might become evident very late after injury. In this presentation studies on late health outcome will be briefly reviewed and a recently published study on long term outcome in rugby union players will be presented. In this study, outcome in relation to exposure to repeated head injury was investigated in retired Scottish international rugby players and controls in relation to general and mental health, life stress, persisting complaints, cognitive function, disability and markers of chronic life stress (allostatic load).
Although the estimated number of concussions was high in the retired rugby players (median=7; IQR 5–40), and subtle group differences were detected on two of the cognitive tests (verbal learning and fine co-ordination of the dominant hand), group differences in mental health, social or work functioning were not found late after injury, and there were not associations between the number of concussions and cognitive function.
There is a need for prospective group comparison studies on representative cohorts.