The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

College Sports News: Are Concussions and Musculoskeletal Injuries Linked?

Posted by on Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

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A new study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that college athletes are almost twice as likely to suffer serious lower body injuries in the year following a concussion. Though the exact cause of the increased rate of ligament sprains, muscle strains, contusions and fractures was not identified, lead author Robert C. Lynall from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill says “balance deficits may linger beyond return to play after the concussion.” Additionally, concussions “may slightly slow the pathways in the brain related to muscular reaction time,” he told Reuters Health by email.

college sports
The ramifications of a concussion can be worse than previously thought, says a new study. Image Source: Wikimedia.org

The Study On Lower Body Injuries & Concussions

To conduct the study, researchers looked at 44 Division I college athletes with doctor-diagnosed concussions and 58 similar college athletes who did not suffer concussions. Male and female football, lacrosse, soccer, cross-country and wrestling athletes were observed. Then the data on acute lower extremity injuries was collected from electronic medical records filed by collegiate athletics staff in the years before and after the concussions. Researchers concluded that the concussed group was almost 100% more likely to suffer a lower extremity injury in the year after their accident compared to the preceding year. Furthermore, the concussed group was 64% more likely to have an injury than the group who had never experienced a concussion.

The Limitations of Current Concussion Research

Of course, no study is perfect and there is always the need for more research to validate one’s findings. Lynall acknowledges that he’s not sure if the results would have been similar had they looked at athletes of different ages or skill levels, such as elementary school or pro athletes. Furthermore, concussions are believed to be severely under-reported, which could skew the data one way or another.

Many studies claim that balance returns to normal within five days of a concussion and it’s not clear whether the current balance assessments we use are substantial enough to show the full spectrum of what’s happening in the body. Little is currently understood about the wide-ranging effects of a concussion or the long-lasting impact. There is much to learn about proper concussion recovery.

What Does This Mean For College Athletes?

Previous literature has shown that “the brain may be unable to effectively coordinate movement” after sustaining a concussion. Researchers say their findings “underscore the need to explore functional movement and dynamic postural control assessments in post-concussion injury assessment protocols.” NYC sports medicine doctors at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine say that these findings also suggest that players can benefit greatly from physical therapy aimed at improving posture and coordination in the year following a head injury.

“We invite injured athletes to visit our state-of-the-art Gait Analysis Center for an assessment to see whether lingering changes to balance or gait are putting you at increased risk of injury,” says Dr. Josef J. Geldwert. “We can work with you on an injury prevention program and address any of the aches and pains you’ve been playing through using the latest non-invasive therapies like MLS laser and platelet-rich plasma.” For more information, contact the Manhattan sports medicine clinic here.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.