Objective: To prospectively measure the immediate neurocognitive effects and early course of recovery from concussion and to examine the effects of loss of consciousness (LOC) and posttraumatic amnesia (PTA) on the severity of neurocognitive impairment immediately after concussion.
Methods: A sports-related concussion research model was used to allow prospective immediate evaluation of concussion. A total of 2385 high school and college football players were studied. Ninety-one players (3.8%) sustained concussions during the study. A brief neurocognitive and neurological screening measure, the Standardized Assessment of Concussion, was used to assess cognitive functioning before the football season, immediately after injury, and 15 minutes, 48 hours, and 90 days after injury.
Results: Standardized Assessment of Concussion scores immediately after concussion were significantly lower than the preseason baseline score and the noninjured population baseline mean, even for injured subjects without LOC or PTA. Subjects with LOC were most severely impaired immediately after injury, whereas those without LOC or PTA were least impaired. Significant impairment was also detected 15 minutes after injury, but all three groups returned to baseline levels of cognitive functioning within 48 hours.
Conclusion: These findings are the first to demonstrate not only that a gradient of increasing concussion severity is represented by PTA and LOC but also that measurable neurocognitive abnormalities are evident immediately after injury without PTA or LOC.