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Is athletic performance affected following concussion? A systematic review and meta-analysis of literature

Is athletic performance affected following concussion? A systematic review and meta-analysis of literature

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by Anthea Clarke 1, Kane Middleton1, Ed Daly 2,Lisa Ryan2, David Carey1, Alan J. Pearce 1,*

1 Sport and Exercise Science, School of Allied Health, Human Services and Sport, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia
2 School of Science and Computing, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, H91 T8NW Galway, Ireland

The Journal of Sport and Exercise Science, Vol. 5, Issue 3, 164-178 (2021)

Received: 13 August 2020 / Accepted: 14 February 2021 / Online: 14 April 2021

Abstract

Emerging research has studied in-game metrics of athletes after returning from concussion injury in an attempt to determine if performance is compromised. The aim of this meta analysis was to quantify performance metrics in professional athletes prior to and following recovery from concussion.

We conducted systematic literature searches in databases: PubMed, SCOPUS, and SPORTDiscus, between January 1990 to July 2020. Meta-analyses compared, first, pre- versus post-concussion performance within concussed athletes, and second, performance between concussed and non-concussed athletes.

After thorough review, seven studies presenting pre-/post-concussion performance were retrieved. The quality of studies analysed were rated as moderate to good. Meta-analyses showed no within-group differences in performance variables in athletes following a concussion. Between group analyses showed significant differences between groups post-concussion for some variables (e.g., scoring, contribution to scoring and blocks); however, pre-concussion comparisons between groups also revealed significant differences.

Collectively, our data reports no changes in athlete performance when returning to competition after suffering a concussion injury. While athletic performance appears to be affected in some variables, the retrospective nature and quasi-experimental observational designs of the studies makes interpretation difficult.

However, despite study limitations, future research in this area should continue, as concussion in sport is not only a medical concern, but also a concern for high performance staff who are unsure how to work with post-concussed athletes following medical clearance to train and compete.