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Age Has Little To Do With Post-Concussion Symptoms, New Study Finds

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Studies dealing with the relationship between age and sports-related concussion have produced discordant results. The prevalent view is that athletes younger than 18 are worse off than older peers with regard to the number of symptoms, their severity and the time it takes to recover. But a new study from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine adds weight to the body of evidence supporting the view that age has no significant bearing on the matter.

The Vanderbilt research team sought to eliminate normal variations by employing rigorous matching criteria and applying reliable change index (RCI) methodology for their retrospective and observational study. The findings have been published in Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.

Each group of athletes was made up of 92 individuals. The younger sample comprised athletes aged 13 to 16, while the older group consisted of college-age subjects (18 to 22). The two groups had no variation with regard to gender, number of previously sustained concussions and time to the initial post-concussion test.

When the researchers compared the number of symptoms listed by the subjects at baseline, they did not find any material difference between the age groups. The average figure was 3.4 for younger athletes and 2.5 for their older peers. There was also no significant difference regarding the number of symptoms listed after concussion: the respective numbers here were 8.3 and 7.

Age also appeared to have no material impact on symptom severity. The mean symptom score for the younger sample was 6.77 at baseline and 19.40 post-concussion. In the older group the figures were 5.43 and 17.72, respectively.

When it comes to the time it took for symptoms to return to baseline, this happened within 30 days for 95.7% of the younger subjects and 96.7% of the older ones. While there was a difference in the mean figure (6.92 days versus 5.66 respectively), it is not deemed statistically significant.