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Athletes with Concussion History At Increased Risk of Future Injury

Several possible explanations but precise reasons unknown

Research shows that an athlete who has sustained a concussion at some point in his or her lifetime is at increased risk for sustaining a sport-related concussion in the future compared to athletes who have never had a concussion.  The reasons for this increased are unknown, but experts suggest several possible explanations: Jigsaw puzzle of head with missing piece

  • Natural predisposition: Some athletes may be born with a predisposition or vulnerability to concussive brain injury and thus have always been at higher risk;
  • Playing time: the more the athlete is on the field, the more he or she is at risk compared to an athlete who spends more time on the bench;
  • Playing style: perhaps athletes who sustain concussions are too aggressive and play too recklessly (for example, when anticipating contact they lead with their head, placing themselves at greater risk of concussion) or are too timid and not aggressive enough so that a well-timed, coordinated blow from a more aggressive opponent results in a concussion;
  • Body mass: Studies of Pee Wee and Bantam youth hockey players have shown that smaller athletes are at increased risk of concussion compared to their larger peers;
  • Earlier concussion changes brain. This final possibility causes a great deal of concern for those of us engaged in athletics, sports medicine, and the management of concussive brain injury.

It could be that all of these explanations are true, each accounting for some proportion of repeat concussions in athletes.  No matter the reason, athletes who have sustained one or more concussions are at increased risk for additional concussions.  As a result, they should be managed closely with all available technologies.


Adapted from Meehan WP III. Kids, Sports, and Concussion (Praeger 2011).

Posted July 24, 2011

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