Acute evaluation of sport-related concussion and implications for the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT6) for adults, adolescents and children: A systematic review

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British Journal of Sports Medicine


Objectives To systematically review the scientific literature regarding the acute assessment of sport-related concussion (SRC) and provide recommendations for improving the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT6). Data sources Systematic searches of seven databases from 2001 to 2022 using key words and controlled vocabulary relevant to concussion, sports, SCAT, and acute evaluation. Eligibility criteria (1) Original research articles, cohort studies, case-control studies, and case series with a sample of >10; (2) ≥80% SRC; and (3) studies using a screening tool/technology to assess SRC acutely (<7 days), and/or studies containing psychometric/normative data for common tools used to assess SRC. Data extraction Separate reviews were conducted involving six subdomains: Cognition, Balance/Postural Stability, Oculomotor/Cervical/Vestibular, Emerging Technologies, and Neurological Examination/Autonomic Dysfunction. Paediatric/Child studies were included in each subdomain. Risk of Bias and study quality were rated by coauthors using a modified SIGN (Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network) tool. Results Out of 12 192 articles screened, 612 were included (189 normative data and 423 SRC assessment studies). Of these, 183 focused on cognition, 126 balance/postural stability, 76 oculomotor/cervical/vestibular, 142 emerging technologies, 13 neurological examination/autonomic dysfunction, and 23 paediatric/child SCAT. The SCAT discriminates between concussed and non-concussed athletes within 72 hours of injury with diminishing utility up to 7 days post injury. Ceiling effects were apparent on the 5-word list learning and concentration subtests. More challenging tests, including the 10-word list, were recommended. Test-retest data revealed limitations in temporal stability. Studies primarily originated in North America with scant data on children. Conclusion Support exists for using the SCAT within the acute phase of injury. Maximal utility occurs within the first 72 hours and then diminishes up to 7 days after injury. The SCAT has limited utility as a return to play tool beyond 7 days. Empirical data are limited in pre-adolescents, women, sport type, geographical and culturally diverse populations and para athletes. PROSPERO registration number CRD42020154787.

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