What is the definition of sports-related concussion: a systematic review

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Abstract

Objectives

Various definitions for concussion have been proposed, each having its strengths and weaknesses. We reviewed and compared current definitions and identified criteria necessary for an operational definition of sports-related concussion (SRC) in preparation of the 5th Concussion Consensus Conference (Berlin, Germany). We also assessed the role of biomechanical studies in informing an operational definition of SRC.

Design

This is a systematic literature review.

Data sources

Data sources include MEDLINE, Embase, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Cochrane Central Register of Clinical Trials and SPORT Discus (accessed 14 September 2016).

Eligibility criteria for selecting studies

Eligibility criteria were studies reporting (clinical) criteria for diagnosing SRC and studies containing SRC impact data.

Results

Out of 1601 articles screened, 36 studies were included (2.2%), 14 reported on criteria for SRC definitions and 22 on biomechanical aspects of concussions. Six different operational definitions focusing on clinical findings and their dynamics were identified. Biomechanical studies were obtained almost exclusively on American football players. Angular and linear head accelerations linked to clinically confirmed concussions demonstrated considerable individual variation.

Summary/conclusions

SRC is a traumatic brain injury that is defined as a complex pathophysiological process affecting the brain, induced by biomechanical forces with several common features that help define its nature. Limitations identified include that the current criteria for diagnosing SRC are clinically oriented and that there is no gold/standard to assess their diagnostic properties. A future, more valid definition of SRC would better identify concussed players by demonstrating high predictive positive/negative values. Currently, the use of helmet-based systems to study the biomechanics of SRC is limited to few collision sports. New approaches need to be developed to provide objective markers for SRC.

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