Risk factors to sport-related concussion for junior athletes

A. L. Clacy, Rachael Sharman, Geoff Lovell

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article

Abstract

Introduction

As more than just an enjoyable activity, team sport offers a range of invaluable benefits to players and has the potential to provide personal, physical and social growth. Despite the many benefits of team sport participation, these benefits do not come without some cost. Although there are strict rules and guidelines in all contact sports, the risk of injuries such as concussion are impossible to prevent completely. Sport-related concussion is a growing concern in contact sport; however, the underlying risk factors and epidemiology of sport-related concussion in junior athletes is not well understood. The notable cognitive, hormonal and neurophysiological changes occurring during development throughout late childhood and adolescence potentially places paediatric athletes at greater risk of sustaining and experiencing enduring effects of brain injury. The aim of this review is to discuss the risk factors to sport-related concussion for junior athletes.

Discussion

Although research is inconsistent, there have been some suggestions of specific individual variables functioning as possible antecedents that increase risk of sustaining a concussion, such as prenatal testosterone exposure, executive function and sensation seeking behaviour. The growing body of inconclusive and speculative studies on this issue highlights the need for more research into both the prolonged effect of cognitive disruption following concussion as well as what specific factors may place an individual athlete at higher risk of sustaining a concussion in the first place.

Conclusion

There are many variables to consider in assessing concussion, from mode of impact to individual characteristics that may place an individual athlete at a higher risk of sustaining a head injury in the first place (e.g. age, impulsivity and executive function). The ‘one size fits all’ guidance currently promoted for managing concussion fails to consider the broader contextual variables that may impact upon the underlying risk factors and epidemiology of sport-related concussion in a paediatric and adolescent population. In response to this limitation in current research, the authors of this review are presently undertaking a cross-sectional study to better understand the underlying individual characteristics that place some junior athletes (aged 11–17 years) at more risk of sustaining a concussion than others.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOA Sports Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013

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