Objective: To describe the development of hypopituitarism in an adolescent athlete after multiple concussions and to raise awareness among sports medicine clinicians concerning the growing concern of hypopituitarism in concussion injury surveillance and management.
Background: A 14-year-old, previously healthy male athlete suffered 4 head traumas over a 4-month period. The first 3 traumas were considered by the athlete to be minor and were not reported to medical personnel. The fourth trauma was a medically diagnosed concussion suffered during soccer play. Over the next year, the patient noted a decline in strength and conditioning and a failure to grow.
Differential diagnosis: After physical examination and a full battery of endocrine tests, the patient, then 16.5 years old, was diagnosed with hypopituitarism. Follow-up interviews provided evidence that at least 2 of the 3 head injuries suffered before the last concussion could also be considered concussions, which may have contributed to the severity of the last head injury.
Treatment: The patient is currently being treated with physiologic replacement hormones (growth hormone, cortisol, and thyroxine), with resumption of linear growth and strength. He is progressing well.
Uniqueness: In the past few years in the medical literature, increased attention has been drawn to the occult occurrence of hypopituitarism after traumatic brain injury in adults. Initial reports indicate that children are also at risk. To our knowledge, this is the first reported case of hypopituitarism after mild traumatic brain injury in the sports medicine literature.
Conclusions: Symptoms of hypopituitarism are often masked by trauma and postconcussion symptoms and may not appear until months or years after the trauma incident, which can lead to significant delay in proper diagnosis and treatment. We urge greater vigilance by, and training of, sports medicine clinicians toward the goal of recognizing the possibility of pituitary disorders after sports concussion.
Keywords: mild traumatic brain injury; neuroendocrinology; sports.