Headaches, fatigue and trouble concentrating are all hallmark signs of a concussion. However, recent research on NCAA student athletes and service academy cadets has found that these symptoms are more often linked to factors like stress, poor sleep and mental health problems than to head injuries.
About the Study
This research was conducted by the Concussion Assessment, Research and Education (CARE) Consortium, a researching body established by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the U.S. Department of Defense. It was published in the journal Sports Medicine in January of this year.
The study was commissioned in order to inform clinicians that they should consider both injury and non-injury-related factors when evaluating athletes and cadets for a concussion.
Data was collected from over 18,000 NCAA student athletes and 12,000 military service academy cadets using a diagnostic survey called the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool, third edition (SCAT3). This tool helps medical professionals diagnose post-concussion syndrome (PCS) by assessing memory, balance, recall and other symptoms. Researchers also evaluated the participants’ pre-concussion medical histories.
The survey showed that 11.4% of male student athletes, 20% of female student athletes, 17.8% of male cadets and 27.6% of female cadets all reported PCS-qualifying symptoms despite no recently reported concussion.
What Was the Cause of These Symptoms?
In all participating groups, stress, sleep problems, migraines and pre-existing psychiatric disorders were strong predictors of PCS symptoms. For NCAA athletes, ADHD and depression were the most common predictors. For cadets, stress caused by first-year basic training and academic problems were the most common predictors.
The Challenge of Diagnosing Concussions
Diagnosing concussions can be challenging, in part because as we’ve seen, concussion symptoms tend to be non-specific, meaning many factors can cause symptoms that mimic them.
Still, symptom reporting remains one of the best methods for identifying a concussion. Common symptoms include:
- Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
- Nausea or vomiting
- Balance problems or dizziness
- Blurry or double vision
- Sensitivity to light and noise
- Feeling foggy or sluggish
- Confusion, trouble concentrating or memory problems
- Feeling “off”
If you experience these symptoms, it’s important to talk to your doctor. In addition to asking you about your symptoms, they’ll also talk to you about any accidents or injuries you’ve experienced, perhaps at the Lexington Sports Complex, to determine if a concussion is a likely culprit or if there are other underlying factors at play.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call CENTA Medical Group today.