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Measuring vs. reporting concussions in cheerleading

6255579856_f43e167c27The subject of athletes' concussions might call to mind a collision between sturdily built practitioners of contact sports, such as football or wrestling. Recently, the New York Times brought attention to head injuries among cyclists. As the sister of a petite former Los Angeles Rams cheerleader, who frequented the emergency room after many a stunt or tumbling accident, though, I wasn't surprised to read that concussions are also prevalent at the top of the pyramid, so to speak.

Now a Journal of Pediatrics release reports that cheerleading has the highest rate of catastrophic injury among sports, with some studies reporting that concussions account for approximately six percent of total cheerleading injuries.

A recent study (.pdf) in the journal measured neurocognitive testing results in cheerleaders against their self-reported presence of symptoms. Vanderbilt University researchers followed 138 junior and senior high school cheerleaders with concussions using pre-season neurocognitive testing followed by at least one Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) evaluation within a week of injury.

From the release:

Overall, 62% of the cheerleaders reported an increase in symptoms after a concussion (e.g., headache, nausea, and dizziness) compared with their baseline. Of the cheerleaders who denied an increase in concussion symptoms from baseline, 33% had at least one ImPACT score that exceeded index criteria. This means that these cheerleaders reported their symptoms inaccurately, overestimated their recovery, or were unaware of their decreased neurocognitive performance.

The results show that the addition of a neurocognitive assessment could be a useful tool to evaluate when cheerleaders with concussion have returned to normalized baseline measures. They also support the idea that self-reported symptoms and decreased neurocognitive test scores after concussion may differ.

The paper references a previous study that found that most of the stunt-related injuries occurred while the cheerleader was stationed at the base of a pyramid or supporting a teammate above.

Previously: Study shows concussion recovery may take longer for female, younger athletesStudy suggests teens are more vulnerable to effects of sport-related concussionsWhen can athletes return to play? Stanford researchers provide guidance and Researchers develop new test for diagnosing concussions on the sidelines
Via ScienceBlog
Photo by SouthernArkansasUniversity

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