Approach to investigation and treatment of persistent symptoms following sport-related concussion: a systematic review

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Abstract

Objective

To conduct a systematic review of the literature regarding assessment and treatment modalities in patients with persistent symptoms following sport-related concussion (SRC).

Data sources

We searched Medline, Embase, SPORTSDiscus, PsycINFO, CINAHL, Cochrane library and ProQuest Dissertation & Theses Global electronic databases.

Study eligibility criteria

Studies were included if they were original research, reported on SRC as the primary source of injury, included patients with persistent postconcussive symptoms (>10 days) and investigated the role of assessment or treatment modalities.

Results

Of 3225 articles identified in the preliminary search, 25 articles met the inclusion criteria. 11 articles were concerned with assessment and 14 articles with treatment of persistent symptoms following SRC. There were three randomised control trials and one quasi-experimental study. The remainder consisting of cross-sectional studies, historical cohorts and case series.

Summary

‘Persistent symptoms’ following SRC can be defined as clinical recovery that falls outside expected time frames (ie, >10–14 days in adults and >4 weeks in children). It does not reflect a single pathophysiological entity, but describes a constellation of non-specific post-traumatic symptoms that may be linked to coexisting and/or confounding pathologies. A detailed multimodal clinical assessment is required to identify specific primary and secondary processes, and treatment should target specific pathologies identified. There is preliminary evidence supporting the use of symptom-limited aerobic exercise, targeted physical therapy and a collaborative approach that includes cognitive behavioural therapy. Management of patients with persistent symptoms is challenging and should occur in a multidisciplinary collaborative setting, with healthcare providers with experience in SRC.

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