Predicting recovery patterns after sport-related concussion

Elizabeth F. Teel, Stephen W. Marshall, Viswanathan Shankar, Michael McCrea, Kevin M. Guskiewicz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Context: Clinicians sometimes treat concussed individuals who have amnesia, loss of consciousness (LOC), a concussion history, or certain symptom types more conservatively, but it is unclear whether recovery patterns differ in individuals with these characteristics. Objective: To determine whether (1) amnesia, LOC, and concussion history influence the acute recovery of symptoms, cognition, and balance; and (2) cognition and balance are influenced by acute symptom type. Design: Cohort study. Setting: Seven sports at 26 colleges and 210 high schools. Patients or Other Participants: A total of 8905 collegiate (n = 1392) and high school (n = 7513) athletes. Main Outcome Measure(s): The Graded Symptom Checklist, Standardized Assessment of Concussion, and Balance Error Scoring System were administered to all athletes during the preseason. To allow us to track recovery patterns, athletes diagnosed with a concussion (n = 375) repeated these assessments immediately after the injury, 3 hours postinjury, 1 day postinjury, and at 2, 3, 5, 7, and 90 days after injury. Results: Athletes who experienced amnesia had markedly greater deficits in and a slower recovery trajectory on measures of symptoms, cognition, and balance. Athletes with 2 or more prior concussions demonstrated poorer balance than those with no previous history. Otherwise, LOC and concussion history largely did not affect symptoms, cognition, or balance. Greater deficits in balance scores were observed in athletes with all symptom types. Regardless of these characteristics, most athletes recovered within 7 to 10 days. Conclusions: Athletes who experienced amnesia had more symptoms and greater deficits in cognition and balance. Symptoms and cognitive or balance deficits were not consistently associated with LOC or concussion history. Acute symptoms had a strong influence on balance scores and, to a lesser extent, on cognition. However, we found no evidence to support more cautious return-To-play decisions for athletes with these characteristics, as group recovery occurred within normal timelines. Our study supports current clinical practice: Recommending that athletes be withheld from activity until they are asymptomatic, followed by a graduated return-To-play progression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)288-298
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Athletic Training
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2017


  • Balance error scoring system
  • Return to play
  • Standardized assessment of concussion
  • Traumatic brain injuries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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