Importance: Every state in the United States has passed legislation for sport-related concussion, making this health issue important for physicians and other health care professionals. Safely returning athletes to sport after concussion relies on accurately determining when their symptoms resolve.
Objective: To evaluate baseline concussion-like symptom reporting in uninjured adolescent student athletes.
Design, setting, and participants: In this cross-sectional, observational study, we studied 31 958 high school athletes from Maine with no concussion in the past 6 months who completed a preseason baseline testing program between 2009 and 2013.
Results: Symptom reporting was more common in girls than boys. Most students with preexisting conditions reported one or more symptoms (60%-82% of boys and 73%-97% of girls). Nineteen percent of boys and 28% of girls reported having a symptom burden resembling an International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision (ICD-10) diagnosis of postconcussional syndrome (PCS). Students with preexisting conditions were even more likely to endorse a symptom burden that resembled PCS (21%-47% for boys and 33%-72% for girls). Prior treatment of a psychiatric condition was the strongest independent predictor for symptom reporting in boys, followed by a history of migraines. For girls, the strongest independent predictors were prior treatment of a psychiatric condition or substance abuse and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The weakest independent predictor of symptoms for both sexes was history of prior concussions.
Conclusions and relevance: In the absence of a recent concussion, symptom reporting is related to sex and preexisting conditions. Consideration of sex and preexisting health conditions can help prevent misinterpretation of symptoms in student athletes who sustain a concussion.