Does age affect symptom recovery after sports-related concussion? A study of high school and college athletes

J Neurosurg Pediatr. 2013 Dec;12(6):537-44. doi: 10.3171/2013.7.PEDS12572. Epub 2013 Sep 24.


Object: Sport-related concussions (SRCs) in high school and college athletes represent a significant public health concern. Research suggests that younger athletes fare worse symptomatically than older athletes after an SRC. Using reliable change index (RCI) methodology, the authors conducted a study to determine if there are age-related differences in number, severity, and resolution of postconcussion symptoms.

Methods: Between 2009 and 2011, baseline measures of neurocognitive functions and symptoms in high school and college athletes were entered into a regional database. Seven hundred forty of these athletes later sustained an SRC. Ninety-two athletes in the 13- to 16-year-old group and 92 athletes in the 18- to 22-year-old group were matched for number of prior concussions, sex, biopsychosocial variables, and days to first postconcussion testing and symptom assessment. A nonparametric Mann-Whitney U-test was used to compare the severity of each of 22 symptoms comprising the Total Symptom Scale (TSS) at baseline and first postconcussion test. To obtain a family-wise p value of 0.05 for each test, the significance level for each symptom comparison was set at an alpha of 0.05/22 = 0.0023. The number of days to return to baseline TSS score was compared using the RCI methodology, set at the 80% confidence interval, equal to a change in raw score of 9.18 points on the TSS.

Results: There was no statistically significant difference in symptom presence, symptom severity, and total symptoms between the age groups at baseline or at postconcussion testing. There was no statistically significant difference in return to baseline symptom scores between the age groups.

Conclusions: Using RCI methodology, there was no statistically significant difference between younger and older athletes in return to baseline symptoms postconcussion.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis
  • Athletic Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Brain Concussion / diagnosis
  • Brain Concussion / physiopathology*
  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sports
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult