Neurocognitive Testing More Accurate than Self-Reporting When Assessing Concussion Recovery in Cheerleaders

Cincinnati, OH, August 8, 2013

Concussions have become a major public health issue, with both short- and long-term side effects.  In sports, cheerleading has the highest rate of catastrophic injury, with some studies reporting approximately 6% of total injuries as concussions. Return-to-play guidelines have relied on athletes' self-reports; however, this has led to concerns about the ability of athletes to truly recognize their own symptoms and recovery. In a new study scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers evaluate the accuracy of neurocognitive testing compared with self-reported symptoms of concussions in cheerleaders.

In the study, 138 junior and senior high school cheerleaders with concussions underwent pre-season baseline neurocognitive testing and completed at least one follow-up evaluation within 7 days of injury using Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT). According to Dr. Mark R. Lovell and a colleague from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, "We hypothesized that the use of ImPACT would result in an increased capacity to detect and measure post-concussive abnormalities in cheerleaders compared with symptom assessment alone." All concussions were diagnosed by a physician, athletic trainer, or other school health care official who was present at the time of injury.

Overall, 62% of the cheerleaders reported an increase in symptoms after a concussion (e.g., headache, nausea, and dizziness) compared with their baseline. Of the cheerleaders who denied an increase in concussion symptoms from baseline, 33% had at least one ImPACT score that exceeded index criteria. This means that these cheerleaders reported their symptoms inaccurately, overestimated their recovery, or were unaware of their decreased neurocognitive performance.

The results show that the addition of a neurocognitive assessment could be a useful tool to evaluate when cheerleaders with concussion have returned to normalized baseline measures. They also support the idea that self-reported symptoms and decreased neurocognitive test scores after concussion may differ. According to co-author Dr. Gary Solomon, "It is common knowledge that athletes may at times minimize or deny symptoms after injury to avoid being removed from competition." Treating physicians should be cautious to return athletes to play based solely on self-reported symptoms.

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Notes for Editors
"Neurocognitive Test Performance and Symptom Reporting in Cheerleaders with Concussions," by Mark R. Lovell, Ph.D., and Gary S. Solomon, Ph.D., appears in The Journal of Pediatrics (www.jpeds.com), DOI 10.1016/j.jpeds.2013.05.061, published by Elsevier.

About The Journal of Pediatrics
The Journal of Pediatrics is a primary reference for the science and practice of pediatrics and its subspecialties. This authoritative resource of original, peer-reviewed articles oriented toward clinical practice helps physicians stay abreast of the latest and ever-changing developments in pediatric medicine. The Journal of Pediatrics is ranked 4th out of 121 pediatric medical journals (2012 Journal Citation Reports®, published by Thomson Reuters). URL: www.jpeds.com

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions — among them ScienceDirect, Scopus, Research Intelligence and ClinicalKey— and publishes over 2,500 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and more than 35,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works. Elsevier is part of RELX Group, a world-leading provider of information and analytics for professional and business customers across industries. www.elsevier.com

Media contact
Becky Lindeman
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journal.pediatrics@cchmc.org