ORIGINAL RESEARCH| Volume 103, ISSUE 2, P323-330, February 2022

Concussion Characteristics and Early Postinjury Outcomes Between College Students and Intercollegiate Athletes

Published:October 18, 2021DOI:



      To describe concussion characteristics among general college students and compare postinjury outcomes to intercollegiate student athletes.


      Retrospective cohort.


      Large university in the Southeast region of the United States.


      A total of 179 (N=179) college students’ (female=120; 67.0%; 23.9±3.9 years) and 49 athletes’ (female=28, 57.1%;19.3±1.3 years) medical records were examined. Participants self-reported injury mechanism, health history information, and completed clinical assessments acutely (<7 days postinjury).

      Main Outcome Measures

      Descriptive statistics were calculated for each group. Concussion outcomes between students with and without certain health history diagnoses were assessed using separate t tests. We conducted univariate regression analyses to determine if sex, age, and time from concussion to first clinical assessment were significant predictors of clinical outcomes. Statistically significant variables were included as covariates in a series of 1-way analyses of covariance to identify differences in balance, symptom severity, total symptom presence, and neurocognitive domain performance between students and athletes. Fisher exact tests were used to compare health history information between groups (α<0.05).


      Among students, 24% reported sustaining a concussion while participating in recreational sports, and 27% of impacts occurred to the back of the head. Students had higher proportions of headache, migraine, anxiety, and depression (P<.05). Students reported greater total symptom presence (P=.006) and performed worse on the computerized neurocognitive test domain score for complex attention (P=.015) relative to athletes.


      These findings highlight the need for better access to medical care for non– National Collegiate Athletic Association sanctioned athletes because of a large proportion of concussions in the student sample being sustained during sports participation. Identifying common injury mechanisms can provide clinicians with powerful information to improve evaluation and treatment models.


      List of abbreviations:

      ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), BESS (Balance Error Scoring System), CNT (neurocognitive testing), LD (learning disorder), RCI (reliable change index)
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