Objective: The purpose of this pilot study was to document the nature and temporal profile of the clinical symptoms of acute sport-related concussion.
Design: Prospective cohort study
Patient population: A total of 303 elite Australian football players participating in a national competition during a single season.
Outcome measures: Number and duration of symptoms, digit symbol substitution test (DSST) scores, time of return to play post injury.
Results: A total of 23 concussions were recorded over the course of the 20-week football season. No catastrophic head injuries occurred. Headache was the most common symptom and the most persistent, with 40% of players reporting headache symptoms lasting more than 15 minutes. Ten of the players (43%) returned to sport on the day of the injury with the remainder resuming play within 2 weeks. A low likelihood of return to play on the day of injury was found where 3 or more symptoms were present or where the symptoms lasted more than 15 minutes. These findings were significantly correlated with poor DSST performance.
Conclusions: This pilot study suggests that both the number of postconcussive symptoms and their duration may be used as a measure of injury severity and a guide for return to play.