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Background: Sports concussion is a risk for players involved in high impact, collision sports. Post-concussion, the majority of symptoms subside within 7–10 days, but can persist in 10–20% of athletes. Understanding the effects of sports concussion on sensorimotor systems could inform physiotherapy treatment.

Objective: To explore changes in sensorimotor function in the acute phase following sports concussion.

Design: Prospective cohort study.

Methods: Fifty-four players from elite rugby union and league teams were assessed at the start of the playing season. Players who sustained a concussion were assessed three to five days later. Measures included assessments of balance (sway velocity), vestibular system function (vestibular ocular reflex gain; right-left asymmetry), cervical proprioception (joint position error) and trunk muscle size and function.

Results: During the playing season, 14 post-concussion assessments were performed within 3–5 days of injury. Significantly decreased sway velocity and increased size/contraction of trunk muscles, were identified. Whilst not significant overall, large inter-individual variation of test results for cervical proprioception and the vestibular system was observed.

Limitations: The number of players who sustained a concussion was not large, but numbers were comparable with other studies in this field. There was missing baseline data for vestibular and cervical proprioception testing for some players.

Conclusions: Preliminary findings post-concussion suggest an altered balance strategy and trunk muscle control with splinting/over-holding requiring consideration as part of the development of appropriate physiotherapy management strategies.


Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

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Journal Article

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