Georgia State University Researcher Part of Study on Concussions

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A Georgia State University PhD researcher is part of a study that shows there is no association between contact sports-related concussions at higher altitudes than those at sea level.

An article by Medscape says the findings of a new meta-analysis should put the idea to rest that there are fewer sports-related concussions at higher altitudes.

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“Further research on this issue will simply divert resources from more clinically effective research aimed at identifying modifiable risk factors for concussion, developing scientifically sound technologies that improve athlete safety, and improving acute and long-term management of sports-related head injuries,” the authors, Gerald S. Zavorsky, PhD, Department of Respiratory Therapy, Georgia State University, Atlanta, and James M. Smoliga, PhD, Department of Physical Therapy, High Point University, North Carolina, conclude, according to the article.

The results were published online September 6 as a research letter in JAMA Neurology.

The authors of the study selected three separate studies for the meta-analysis: A study that looked at Division 1 football concussion injuries using data from the National Collegiate Athletics Association Injury Surveillance Program from 2009 to 2014; concussion rates among National Football League players in 2012 and 2013, with data from each team’s official website and from the PBS Frontline Concussion Watch web-based resource; and analysis of concussion rates in adolescents participating in nine high school sports between 2005 and 2012, which used data from the National High School Sports Related Injury Surveillance System.

“The meta-analysis, which included nearly 5 million data points, showed that the number of adverse events per athlete exposure (one game) at sea level ranged from about 0.07% to 0.45%, which was similar to the rate at higher altitudes, where they ranged from 0.06% to 0.50%,” the article reads.

There was reportedly no difference in the relative risk for concussion at sea level compared with the risk at a higher altitude.

The results demonstrate “that there is no clinically relevant association between altitude and concussion risk,” the authors write. “Even if altitude protected athletes from concussion, altitude is not a factor that can be readily altered and is of little value from a public health standpoint.”

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