Neuropsychology of sports-related head injury: Dementia Pugilistica to Post Concussion Syndrome

Clin Neuropsychol. 1999 May;13(2):193-209. doi: 10.1076/clin.


This article reviews the existing literature in the following areas of sports neuropsychology: Dementia Pugilistica, concussion and Post Concussion Syndrome, Second Impact Syndrome, and the emerging role of the sports neuropsychologist regarding return to play decisions. Dementia Pugilistica is discussed as a condition that exists along a continuum: Although many boxers will develop mild neurocognitive deficits, it is not yet known what percent of these mild presentations will progress to diagnosable Dementia Pugilistica. Factors contributing to both increased and reduced risk are detailed. The role of neuropsychological assessment in research and clinical management is reviewed. Existing studies of concussion incurred during contact sports provide evidence of an important role for neuropsychology in assessment and management of mild head injuries. Issues in clinical assessment of concussion are reviewed. The importance of grading of concussions, monitoring of postconcussive symptom resolution, and the use of neuropsychological test results in return to play decisions is detailed. The Second Impact Syndrome is discussed with regard to return to play decisions. Recommendations are proposed for research and for clinical application of findings in sports neuropsychology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Athletic Injuries / psychology
  • Boxing / injuries*
  • Brain Injury, Chronic / diagnosis*
  • Brain Injury, Chronic / psychology
  • Dementia / diagnosis*
  • Dementia / psychology
  • Head Injuries, Closed / diagnosis*
  • Head Injuries, Closed / psychology
  • Humans
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Recurrence