Clinical decision making about an athlete's return to competition after concussion is hampered by a lack of systematic methods to measure recovery. We applied standard regression-based methods to statistically measure individual rates of impairment at several time points after concussion in college football players. Postconcussive symptoms, cognitive functioning, and balance were assessed in 94 players with concussion (based on American Academy of Neurology Criteria) and 56 noninjured controls during preseason baseline testing, and immediately, 3 hr, and 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7 days postinjury. Ninety-five percent of injured players exhibited acute concussion symptoms and impairment on cognitive or balance testing immediately after injury, which diminished to 4% who reported elevated symptoms on postinjury day 7. In addition, a small but clinically significant percentage of players who reported being symptom free by day 2 continued to be classified as impaired on the basis of objective balance and cognitive testing. These data suggest that neuropsychological testing may be of incremental utility to subjective symptom checklists in identifying the residual effects of sport-related concussion. The implementation of neuropsychological testing to detect subtle cognitive impairment is most useful once postconcussive symptoms have resolved. This management model is also supported by practical and other methodological considerations. (JINS, 2005, 11, 58–69.)
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