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University of Pittsburgh reports effects of multiple concussions in high school athletes

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 28 A high school athlete with a history of three or more concussions who sustains a new concussion may be up to nine times more likely to experience common symptoms compared to high school athletes with no history of concussion, according to a University of Pittsburgh study, published in the November issue of the journal Neurosurgery.

"The study is the first to actually demonstrate what have been the commonly assumed cumulative effects of multiple concussions in high school athletes," according to lead author Michael W. (Micky) Collins, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist and assistant director of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Sports Medicine's Concussion Program. "The study indicates for the first time in the high school athlete population that prior concussions may indeed lower the threshold for subsequent concussion injury and increase symptom severity in even seemingly mild subsequent concussions," he said. "Our findings are significant because high school athletes in contact sports are at high risk for repeated concussions, yet it is a population that has been understudied regarding concussion management," Dr. Collins said. "Quite often the athlete's concussion history has weighed heavily in the return-to-play decision process, although this has been based on little scientific data. Our findings highlight the need for more long-term outcome studies in this population."

Concussion symptoms are not always reported by the athlete and the effects are difficult to objectively measure. Thus, the determination of when it is safe to return an athlete to play is not always straightforward, according to Dr. Collins. Previous research has shown that allowing enough time for the brain to heal and recover before return-to-play is crucial in preventing more severe damage from possible further brain trauma during contact play. Generally, he said, most athletes who sustain an initial concussion can recover completely as long as they are
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Contact: Susan Manko
412-647-3555
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
28-Oct-2002


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