Cognitive, Sleep-Arousal, Physical, and Affective Domain Scores on the Post-Concussion Symptom Scale: Added Utility in Detecting Symptom Elevations among Student-Athletes with a Remote History of Concussion

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Archives of clinical neuropsychology


OBJECTIVE: The evaluation of self-reported symptoms is a standard component of concussion assessment and management. Clinicians typically evaluate a total symptom severity score rather than scores corresponding to specific symptom domains (i.e., cognitive, sleep-arousal, physical, and affective symptoms). This study examined (i) whether elevations in specific symptom domains would be missed when interpreting only the total symptom severity score and (ii) if a single symptom domain elevation was more common than having elevated symptoms across multiple domains.

METHOD: Adolescent student-athletes (N = 1,008) with concussion history (i.e., ≥6 months since last concussion) completed the Post-Concussion Symptom Scale (PCSS). The PCSS total score and cognitive, sleep-arousal, physical, and affective domain scores were calculated. To determine if symptoms were elevated, scores were compared to normative data matched on gender and pre-existing conditions, with scores considered elevated if they were ≥84th percentile. The frequency of total and domain score elevations were calculated and stratified by gender and number of prior concussions (i.e., 1 or ≥2 prior concussions).

RESULTS: Overall, 26% of student-athletes had an elevated symptom domain score without being elevated on the total score. The most common symptom presentation was to have a single elevated symptom domain (21%), followed by two (11%), three (8%), or four elevated domains (6%).

CONCLUSIONS: Interpreting PCSS symptom domains may be beneficial in detecting student-athletes with elevated symptoms following a remote concussion. Roughly a quarter of student-athletes have domain-specific symptom elevations that would be missed by interpreting the total score alone.

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ePub ahead of print