What domains of clinical function should be assessed after sport-related concussion? A systematic review

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Abstract

Background

Sport-related concussion (SRC) is a clinical diagnosis made after a sport-related head trauma. Inconsistency exists regarding appropriate methods for assessing SRC, which focus largely on symptom-scores, neurocognitive functioning and postural stability.

Design

Systematic literature review.

Data sources

MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Cochrane-DSR, Cochrane CRCT, CINAHL, SPORTDiscus (accessed July 9, 2016).

Eligibility criteria for selecting studies

Original (prospective) studies reporting on postinjury assessment in a clinical setting and evaluation of diagnostic tools within 2 weeks after an SRC.

Results

Forty-six studies covering 3284 athletes were included out of 2170 articles. Only the prospective studies were considered for final analysis (n=33; 2416 athletes). Concussion diagnosis was typically made on the sideline by an (certified) athletic trainer (55.0%), mainly on the basis of results from a symptom-based questionnaire. Clinical domains affected included cognitive, vestibular and headache/migraine. Headache, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and dizziness were the symptoms most frequently reported. Neurocognitive testing was used in 30/33 studies (90.9%), whereas balance was assessed in 9/33 studies (27.3%).

Summary/conclusions

The overall quality of the studies was considered low. The absence of an objective, gold standard criterion makes the accurate diagnosis of SRC challenging. Current approaches tend to emphasise cognition, symptom assessment and postural stability with less of a focus on other domains of functioning. We propose that the clinical assessment of SRC should be symptom based and interdisciplinary. Whenever possible, the SRC assessment should incorporate neurological, vestibular, ocular motor, visual, neurocognitive, psychological and cervical aspects.

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