Background: Concussions are commonly diagnosed in pediatric patients presenting to the emergency department (ED). The primary objective of this study was to evaluate compliance with ED discharge instructions for concussion management.
Methods: A prospective cohort study was conducted from November 2011 to November 2012 in a pediatric ED at a regional Level 1 trauma center, serving 35,000 pediatric patients per year. Subjects were aged 8 years to 17 years and were discharged from the ED with a diagnosis of concussion. Exclusion criteria included recent (past 3 months) diagnosis of head injury, hospital admission, intracranial injury, skull fracture, suspected nonaccidental trauma, or preexisting neurologic condition. Subjects were administered a baseline survey in the ED and were given standardized discharge instructions for concussion by the treating physician. Telephone follow-up surveys were conducted at 2 weeks and 4 weeks after ED visit.
Results: A total of 150 patients were enrolled. The majority (67%) of concussions were sports related. Among sports-related concussions, soccer (30%), football (11%), lacrosse (8%), and basketball (8%) injuries were most common. More than one third (39%) reported return to play (RTP) on the day of the injury. Physician follow-up was equivalent for sport and nonsport concussions (2 weeks, 58%; 4 weeks, 64%). Sports-related concussion patients were more likely to follow up with a trainer (2 weeks, 25% vs. 10%, p = 0.06; 4 weeks, 29% vs. 8%, p < 0.01). Of the patients who did RTP or normal activities at 2 weeks (44%), more than one third (35%) were symptomatic, and most (58%) did not receive medical clearance. Of the patients who had returned to activities at 4 weeks (64%), less than one quarter (23%) were symptomatic, and most (54%) received medical clearance.
Conclusion: Pediatric patients discharged from the ED are mostly compliant with concussion instructions. However, a significant number of patients RTP on the day of injury, while experiencing symptoms or without medical clearance.
Level of evidence: Care management, level IV. Epidemiologic study, level III.