In two out of three cases of concussion in the Norwegian elite league, the concussion is never recognised and in 70% of the head impact situations the player returns to play immediately.
Still, the long-term consequences of these head impacts are uncertain. This is presented in a new article published in Neurosurgery.
The article is based on data from a two-year prospective follow up of the head impacts in the Norwegian elite football league (Tippeligaen). More than 200 incidents where a player experienced a head impact were identified, but only 7 concussions were reported.
Blood samples and test of reaction time
Researchers from the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center collected blood samples immediately after the matches and conducted data-based reaction time tests on the players the following day.
The head impact group had a greater change in reaction time from baseline to follow up compared with the matched control group with regard to the three simplest tasks.
The largest deficits were seen among the players reporting acute symptoms after the impact, but deficits were also demonstrated among asymptomatic players. However, the blood samples revealed no evidence suggesting that there is significant brain tissue injury after these minor head impacts in football. The results from the blood samples were published in a separate article in Neurosurgery last year.
Long-term cognitive consequences reamin uncertain
The players who experienced one or more head impacts during the 2004 season showed a reduction in neuropsychological performance when tested before the 2005 season. However, none of these players were impaired when compared to the test manufacturer's normative data.
Thus, none of the active players in the Norwegian elite football league showed any obvious signs of cognitive impairment as a result of previous head impacts or concussions, but the long-term cognitive consequences are uncertain.
NEW: Simple sideline assessment tools are now available
These tools, called SCAT2, will help you to diagnose concussion symptoms and make return-to-sport decisions easier and safer for the athlete.