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Sports related concussion (SRC) is a risk for players involved in high impact, collision sports. A history of SRC is a risk factor for future concussions, but the mechanisms underlying this are unknown. Despite evidence that most visible signs and symptoms associated with sports concussion resolve within 7-10 days, it has been proposed that subclinical loss of neuromuscular control and impaired motor functioning may persist and be associated with further injury. Alternatively, indicators of poor sensorimotor performance could be independent risk factors. This study investigated if a history of SRC and/or pre-season sensorimotor performance predicted season head/neck injuries. Methods: 190 male rugby league, rugby union and Australian Football League players participated. Pre-season assessments included self-report of SRC within the previous 12 months and a suite of measures of sensorimotor function (balance, vestibular function, cervical proprioception and trunk muscle function). Head/neck injury data were collected in the playing season. Results: Forty-seven players (25%) reported a history of SRC. A history of concussion was related to changes in size and contraction of trunk muscles. Twenty-two (11.6%) players sustained a head/neck injury during the playing season, of which, 14 (63.6%) players had a previous history of SRC. Predictors of in-season head/neck injuries included history of SRC, trunk muscle function and cervical proprioceptive errors. Five risk factors were identified and players with three or more of these had 14 times greater risk of sustaining a season neck/head injury (sensitivity of 75% and specificity of 82.5%) than players with 2 or fewer risk factors. Conclusion: The modifiable risk factors identified could be used to screen football players in the pre-season and guide development of exercise programs aimed at injury reduction.


Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access