High school athletes who had two or more concussions were more likely to report physical, emotional and cognitive problems than those who had never had a concussion, according to a recent study. A preliminary report on the findings will be published in the February issue of the journal Neurosurgery.
Serious brain disease among professional athletes has recently drawn attention to the effects of multiple concussions on adults. But less is known about the long-term effect of concussions on high school athletes.
St. Joseph’s University psychologist Philip Schatz, lead author of the study, said his research team looked at teens four months following a concussion, after any initial headaches and dizziness were long gone.
“These aren’t kids that are walking around with post-concussion syndrome,” Schatz said. “They look healthy, they would seem healthy, but if you ask them how they’re feeling, they say yes to concussion-related symptoms more than other kids who have zero previous concussions or one previous concussion.”
Those concussion-related symptoms included headache, nausea, difficulty concentrating and drowsiness.
Schatz says conventional wisdom is turning away from the idea that a concussion is a one-time event with no long-term repercussions if properly treated. More research must be done before any cause-and-effect relationship between the symptoms and prior concussions can be proven, he said.
“We know that retired athletes with history of previous concussion can look quite different neurologically and behaviorally, and I wonder what they looked like when they were in high school,” Schatz said. “What’s the number of concussions that says ‘This is when you start having symptoms that don’t go away?’ And we don’t know those answers yet.”