Sports-Related Concussion

Researchers in the Center for Injury Research and Policy work on multi-disciplinary teams to investigate several factors related to sports-related concussion including laws, policies, and behavioral health. Sports are invaluable to children’s development. We encourage youth to participate in sports. We encourage policymakers and sports officials to follow and enforce rules and policies set in place to keep our athletes safer.

Dr. Ginger Yang completed a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded project in which her team evaluated the impact of state TBI laws on the rate of new and recurrent concussions among a nationally representative sample of high school athletes. This project found:

  • Significantly increased trends in new and recurrent concussion reporting rates. These increases were observed from pre-law, through immediate-post-law, and into the post-law period.
  • Approximately two and a half years after the laws went into effect, the recurrent concussion rate showed a significant decline.
  • All participating high schools developed concussion policies to guide the implementation of their state youth TBI law.
  • The language used in school concussion policies varied largely regarding policy enforcement (strictness of language indicated in the policy), policy description (details provided on the definition of the policy requirements), and policy implementation specifications (specific steps for implementing the policy requirements).

Dr. Yang led a Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)-funded, 5-year, multi-site, prospective, multidisciplinary, collaborative research project to look at the influence of social support on injured Division I intercollegiate athletes’ physical and psychological outcomes. Main findings include:

  • Both male and female athletes who reported experiencing anxiety symptoms at preseason are at an increased risk of injuries during the prospective season as compared to their peers without these symptoms.
    • Only male athletes with co-occurring preseason depressive and anxiety symptoms are more likely to experience injuries compared with male athletes with no symptom co-occurrence.
    • The presence of preseason depressive symptoms with the absence of anxiety symptoms is not linked to an increased injury risk for male or female athletes.
  • While the orthopedic injury group showed greater fear of return-to play and fear of re-injury than the concussion group over time, the concussion group scored higher on depressive symptoms at 1-month post-injury than the orthopedic injury group, although both groups scored similarly at baseline and at 1-week post-injury.
  • Social support is an important coping resource for collegiate athletes dealing with psychological recovery from an injury.
  • More than 80% of injured collegiate athletes rely on social support from their athletic trainers during their recovery to help them cope with their injury.
  • Athletes who reported higher levels of satisfaction with the social support they receive from their athletic trainers during their recovery, the less likely they are to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety at return to play.

Dr. Yang and her team recently completed a project, funded by The Ohio State University Discovery Theme Initiative on Chronic Brain Injury, which assessed driving performance after concussion in teen drivers aged 16 to 20 years using high-fidelity driving simulators. Specifically, the project:

  • Measured driving performance among teen drivers with mild Traumatic Brian Injury (mTBI) and sex-, age-, driving experience- matched healthy controls
  • Assessed the effect of increased cognitive load on driving performance among the teen drivers with an mTBI and healthy control teen drivers

Dr. Yang and her team are currently conducting a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)- funded study examining optimal levels of physical and cognitive rest after sports-related concussion among youth aged 11 to 17 years.

  • Current clinical guidelines for the management of sports-related concussion call for physical and cognitive rest following injury. However, these guidelines do not have a strong evidence-base.
  • The optimal levels of physical and cognitive rest needed to promote and facilitate recovery from concussion are unknown, precluding personalized rest plans for youth based on the characteristics of their concussion.
  • Findings from this study will be used to provide strong evidence for the development of personalized rest and treatment plan for youth recovering from a sports-related concussion.

Dr. Yang and her team are currently conducting a CDC-funded study examining the impact of Ohio’s Youth Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Law on changes in patterns of concussion-related healthcare utilization among youth aged 5 to 18 years old.

  • Concussion legislation, the first law of its kind to address a specific injury and mandate medical attention, has led to increased concussion-related healthcare utilization. However, studies assessing the impact of youth TBI laws on healthcare utilization are limited, with very few studies including primary care encounters despite over 80% of concussed youth initiating care with their primary care physician.
  • This study aims to assess:
    • The impact of Ohio’s youth TBI law on rates of first concussion-related medical encounters from pre- to post-law by sex, age, and injury mechanism; and
    • If health insurance status and/or location of residence impacts patterns of first and last concussion-related medical encounter types from pre- to post-law.

To help ensure the health and safety of young athletes, CDC developed the HEADS UP Concussion in Youth Sports initiative to offer information about concussions to coaches, parents, and athletes involved in youth sports. The HEADS UP initiative provides important information on preventing, recognizing, and responding to a concussion.

For media interviews with Dr. Ginger Yang about sports-related concussion, please contact Nationwide Children’s Media Relations.

Sports-Related Concussion Resources