Does an individual's fitness level affect baseline concussion symptoms?

J Athl Train. 2013 Sep-Oct;48(5):654-8. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-48.3.19. Epub 2013 Apr 3.


Context: Variables that may influence baseline concussion symptoms should be investigated.

Objective: To evaluate the effect of physical fitness on self-report of baseline concussion symptoms in collegiate athletes and students.

Design: Controlled laboratory study.

Patients or other participants: A total of 125 undergraduates, including 95 collegiate athletes and 30 recreational athletes (83 males, 42 females).

Intervention(s): Participants completed the Standardized Concussion Assessment Tool 2 (SCAT2; symptom report) at baseline, within 10 minutes of completing the Leger test, and within 24 hours of the initial baseline test. The Leger (beep) test is a shuttle-run field test used to predict maximal aerobic power.

Main outcome measure(s): The total symptom score on the SCAT2 was calculated and analyzed with a repeated-measures analysis of variance. A linear regression analysis was used to determine if 3 variables (sport type, sex, or fitness level) accounted for a significant amount of the variance in the baseline symptom report.

Results: Participants reported more symptoms postactivity but fewer symptoms at 24 hours compared with baseline, representing a time effect in our model (F2,234 = 47.738, P < .001). No interactions were seen among the independent variables. We also found an effect for fitness level, with fitter individuals reporting fewer symptoms at all 3 time intervals. The regression analysis revealed that fitness level accounted for a significant amount of the variance in SCAT2 symptoms at baseline (R (2) = 0.22, F3,121 = 11.44, P < .01).

Conclusions: Fitness level affected the baseline concussion symptom report. Exercise seems to induce concussion symptom reporting, and symptom severity may be a function of an athlete's level of conditioning. Sports medicine professionals should consider an athlete's level of fitness when conducting baseline concussion symptom assessments.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletes
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Brain Concussion / diagnosis*
  • Brain Concussion / physiopathology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Sports
  • Sports Medicine
  • Trauma Severity Indices*
  • Universities
  • Young Adult