The neuropsychological outcomes of concussion: a systematic review of meta-analyses on the cognitive sequelae of mild traumatic brain injury

Neuropsychology. 2014 May;28(3):321-36. doi: 10.1037/neu0000037. Epub 2013 Nov 11.


Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI), also known as concussion, has become a growing public health concern, prevalent in both athletic and military settings. Many researchers have examined post-mTBI neuropsychological outcomes, leading to multiple meta-analyses amalgamating individual study results.

Objective: Considering the plethora of meta-analytic findings, the next logical step stands as a systematic review of meta-analyses, effectively reporting key moderators that predict post-mTBI neuropsychological outcomes.

Method: A systematic review of reviews yielded 11 meta-analyses meeting inclusion criteria (i.e., English-language systematic reviews/meta-analyses covering post-mTBI observational cognitive research on late adolescents/adults), with their findings qualitatively synthesized based on moderator variables (i.e., cognitive domain, time since injury, past head injury, participant characteristics, comparison group, assessment technique, and persistent symptoms).

Results: The overall effect sizes ranged for both general (range: .07-.61) and sports-related mTBI (range: .40-.81) and differed both between and within cognitive domains, with executive functions appearing most sensitive to multiple mTBI. Cognitive domains varied in recovery rates, but overall recovery occurred by 90 days postinjury for most individuals and by 7 days postinjury for athletes. Greater age/education and male gender produced smaller effects sizes, and high school athletes suffered the largest deficits post-mTBI. Control-group comparisons yielded larger effects than within-person designs, and assessment techniques had limited moderating effects.

Conclusions: Overall, meta-analytic review quality remained low with few studies assessing publication or study quality bias. Meta-analyses consistently identified adverse acute mTBI-related effects and fairly rapid symptom resolution. Future meta-analyses should better operationally define cognitive constructs to produce more consistent effect estimates across domains.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries / complications*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Neuropsychological Tests*