Research News

UW researchers find that concussed athletes at higher risk for injuries after returning to play

January 28, 2016

A team of researchers from UW-Madison, including the Department of Kinesiology’s David Bell, are co-authors of a recent paper that indicates student-athletes who suffer concussions are more likely to sustain lower extremity injuries after returning to play than their non-concussed teammates.

The paper, which appears in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, is titled, “Concussion Increases Odds of Sustaining a Lower Extremity Musculoskeletal Injury After Return to Play Among Collegiate Athletes.”

David Bell
Bell, the senior author on the paper, is an assistant professor with the Athletic Training Program, which is housed within the School of Education's Department of Kinesiology. Bell also is the director of the Wisconsin Injury in Sport Laboratory (WISL).  The lead author on the study is UW-Madison's Alison Brooks, who specializes in pediatric and adolescent primary care sports medicine, and is an assistant professor with the Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation.

According to the paper’s abstract, “previous studies have identified abnormalities in brain and motor functioning after concussion that persist well beyond observed clinical recovery. Recent work suggests subtle deficits in neurocognition may impair neuromuscular control and thus potentially increase risk of lower extremity musculoskeletal injury after concussion.”

So the researchers set out to determine the probability of sustaining an “acute lower extremity musculoskeletal injury during the 90-day period after return to play from concussion in a cohort of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I collegiate athletes.”

The researchers examined “87 cases of concussion among 75 athletes (58 men; 17 women) participating in NCAA Division I football, soccer, hockey, softball, basketball, wrestling or volleyball at a single institution from 2011 to 2014. The 90-day period after return to play for each case of concussion was reviewed for acute noncontact lower extremity musculoskeletal injury.”

The study explains that the “odds of sustaining an acute lower extremity musculoskeletal injury during the 90-day period after return to play were 2.48 times higher in concussed athletes than controls during the same 90-day period.”

“The study results suggest further investigation of neurocognitive and motor control deficits may be warranted beyond the acute injury phase to decrease risk for subsequent injury,” the authors write.

To learn more about this topic, make sure and check out the entire published study online.