The natural history of sport-related concussion in collegiate athletes: Findings from the NCAA-DoD CARE Consortium


Background:Sport-related concussion is recognized as a significant injury with variable recovery rates.

Objective:This study defined the acute natural history of sport concussion in male and female collegiate athletes participating in a broad array of sports.

Methods:We conducted a prospective, longitudinal investigation among collegiate student athletes (n = 34,709) from 30 academic institutions. Primary outcomes included the time (days) from injury until initiation of a return to participation (RTP) protocol and time from injury until medical clearance for unrestricted RTP.

Results:Concussed athletes (n = 1751, 19.2 years, 63.2% male) participating in 22 different sports began the RTP protocol in a median 6.4 (IQR 3.7-11.8) days. Time to initiate the RTP protocol was lengthened by less frequent post-injury assessments, greater initial post-injury symptom severity, limited contact sports participation, practice/training injuries, and three or more prior concussions. The median total RTP duration was 12.8 (IQR 8.7-20.1) days. Total RTP duration was shorter with ADHD medication usage, males, and greater assessment frequency; while greater initial post-injury symptom severity, practice-/training-related injuries, and three or more prior concussions had longer recoveries.

Conclusion:Although median recovery times are consistent with previous guidelines, it was not until 1 month post-injury that a preponderance of collegiate athletes were cleared to begin the RTP protocol (92%) or cleared for unrestricted sport participation (85%). Intrinsic and extrinsic factors had a small effect, altering recovery trajectories by up to 2 days, suggesting a largely unified approach to post-injury monitoring and management across all athletes. These data represent a shift from previous classification parameters of normal clinical recovery.



PubMed ID