Purpose of review: Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) accompanied by concussion is a common presenting complaint among children presenting to emergency departments (EDs). There is wide practice variation regarding diagnosis and management of sports-related concussions in children. Our aim is to review the most recent evidence and expert recommendations regarding initial diagnosis and management of sports-related concussions in children.
Recent findings: Previous classifications and return-to-play guidelines for sports-related concussions in children were inadequate and have been abandoned. The most recent recommendations, from the Third International Conference on Concussion in Sport (CIS), reinforce an individualized evaluation of the athlete's neurocognitive functioning, symptoms and balance. They further reinforce a step-wise approach in the return-to-play process once neurocognitive function has returned to baseline and all symptoms have resolved. The need for a standardized and objective tool to aid in the initial evaluation and diagnosis of mTBI in the clinical setting led to the development of the Acute Concussion Evaluation (ACE) protocol, which is currently being modified for specific use in the ED. Computed tomography (CT) in the acute setting is not likely to be useful for children with mTBI. Newer functional imaging techniques may prove relevant in the future.
Summary: Further research on both the incidence of sports-related concussions in children and management paradigms is needed. The role of novel imaging modalities in clinical assessment also needs to be elucidated. An individualized approach to evaluation and management of sports-related concussions is recommended. It should incorporate standard symptom assessment, neuropsychological testing and postural stability testing.