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CARE Consortium: Identifying and evaluating concussion risk factors across multiple injury settings

To gain a better understanding of how concussions occur in day-to-day life, particularly among military populations, a team of researchers led by Kathryn Van Pelt, a postdoctoral research fellow at Kentucky, examined the concussion histories of more than 10,000 cadets at three military academies participating in the NCAA-Department of Defense Concussion Assessment, Research and Education Consortium study. Their findings were published in the medical journal Injury Epidemiology.

What did the study find?

Of the 10,604 cadets studied over a three-year period, 738 suffered concussions, a disproportionate amount of whom were female. Beyond gender differences, researchers found that freshman status as well as previous concussion and headache history were the most consistent concussion risk factors. Females and those with a previous concussion history were most at risk across all settings, while freshman experienced greatest risks during military academy-related training activities.

What are the implications?

By better understanding risk factors across a range of settings, schools, athletics programs and military academies can better tailor their protocols to screen for, diagnose and treat concussion. Data highlighted unique and new at-risk factors, like freshman status and pre-injury somatization symptoms, which may better equip the academies to understand not only what groups might be most at risk, but when and where that risk might manifest.

What’s next?

Researchers acknowledge that the study is not without limitation. Best efforts were made to collect every incident concussion. However, due to nonreporting, it is possible incident concussions were missed, which may bias the results. This population will continue to be monitored to determine future trends.