Concussion and long-term cognitive impairment among professional or elite sport-persons: a systematic review

Valentina Gallo*, Kim Motley, Simon P T Kemp, Saba Mian, Tara Patel, Laura James, Neil Pearce, Damien McElvenny

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
56 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Introduction Understanding whether concussion in sport is associated with worsening cognitive function in later life will likely have immediate repercussion on sports concussion prevention and management policy and sporting rules and regulations. This systematic review aims to summarise the evidence on the association between concussion sustained by professional/elite athletes and long-term cognitive impairment.

Methods Embase, PubMed and Web of Science were used to search for eligible studies. Studies including professional/elite athletes from any sport were considered. Three comparison groups were considered: internal comparison (concussed vs non-concussed athletes within the same sample); between-sport comparison (contact sport athletes vs non-contact sports ones); external comparison (athletes vs samples of the general population or population norms).

Results 14 studies were included (rugby, American football, ice hockey players, boxers and marital art fighters). The general quality of the evidence was poor. The overall evidence, weighted for type of comparison and study quality, points towards an association between sustaining a sport-related concussion and poorer cognitive function later in life in rugby, American football and boxing, although it is unclear to what extent this is clinically relevant. Data on ice hockey and martial arts were too sparse to allow conclusions to be drawn.

Conclusion High-quality, appropriately designed and powered epidemiological studies are urgently needed to assess the association between sustaining a sport-related concussion and cognitive impairment later in life. Particular emphasis should be put on the clinical translational value of findings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-468
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry
Volume91
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1-May-2020
Externally publishedYes

Cite this