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Mental health after paediatric concussion: a systematic review and meta-analysis


Objective This systematic review and meta-analysis sought to rigorously examine mental health outcomes following paediatric concussion. To date, heterogeneous findings and methodologies have limited clinicians’ and researchers’ ability to meaningfully synthesise existing literature. In this context, there is a need to clarify mental health outcomes in a homogeneous sample, controlling for key methodological differences and applying a consistent definition of concussion across studies.

Design Systematic review and meta-analysis.

Data sources We searched Medline, Embase, PsycINFO, CINAHL, SportDiscus, Scopus and PubMed.

Eligibility Peer-reviewed studies published between 1980 and June 2020 that prospectively examined mental health outcomes after paediatric concussion, defined as per the Berlin Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport.

Results Sixty-nine articles characterising 60 unique samples met inclusion criteria, representing 89 114 children with concussion. Forty articles (33 studies) contributed to a random effects meta-analysis of internalising (withdrawal, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress), externalising (conduct problems, aggression, attention, hyperactivity) and total mental health difficulties across three time points post-injury (acute, persisting and chronic). Overall, children with concussion (n=6819) experienced significantly higher levels of internalising (g=0.41–0.46), externalising (g=0.25–0.46) and overall mental health difficulties compared with controls (g=0.18–0.49; n=56 271), with effects decreasing over time.

Summary/conclusions Our review highlights that mental health is central to concussion recovery. Assessment, prevention and intervention of mental health status should be integrated into standard follow-up procedures. Further research is needed to clarify the mechanisms underlying observed relationships between mental health, post-concussion symptoms and other psychosocial factors. Results suggest that concussion may both precipitate and exacerbate mental health difficulties, thus impacting delayed recovery and psychosocial outcomes.

  • concussion
  • psychology
  • meta-analysis
  • sports medicine
  • paediatrics

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