Concussion Guidelines Step 2: Evidence for Subtype Classification

Angela Lumba-Brown, Masaru Teramoto, O. Josh Bloom, David Brody, James Chesnutt, James R. Clugston, Michael Collins, Gerard Gioia, Anthony Kontos, Avtar Lal, Allen Sills, Jamshid Ghajar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Concussion is a heterogeneous mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) characterized by a variety of symptoms, clinical presentations, and recovery trajectories. By thematically classifying the most common concussive clinical presentations into concussion subtypes (cognitive, ocular-motor, headache/migraine, vestibular, and anxiety/mood) and associated conditions (cervical strain and sleep disturbance), we derive useful definitions amenable to future targeted treatments. OBJECTIVE: To use evidence-based methodology to characterize the 5 concussion subtypes and 2 associated conditions and report their prevalence in acute concussion patients as compared to baseline or controls within 3 d of injury. METHODS: A multidisciplinary expert workgroup was established to define the most common concussion subtypes and their associated conditions and select clinical questions related to prevalence and recovery. A literature search was conducted from January 1, 1990 to November 1, 2017. Two experts abstracted study characteristics and results independently for each article selected for inclusion. A third expert adjudicated disagreements. Separate meta-analyses were conducted to do the following: 1) examine the prevalence of each subtype/associated condition in concussion patients using a proportion, 2) assess subtype/associated conditions in concussion compared to baseline/uninjured controls using a prevalence ratio, and 3) compare the differences in symptom scores between concussion subtypes and uninjured/baseline controls using a standardized mean difference (SMD). RESULTS: The most prevalent concussion subtypes for pediatric and adult populations were headache/migraine (0.52; 95% CI = 0.37, 0.67) and cognitive (0.40; 95% CI = 0.25, 0.55), respectively. In pediatric patients, the prevalence of the vestibular subtype was also high (0.50; 95% CI = 0.40, 0.60). Adult patients were 4.4, 2.9, and 1.7 times more likely to demonstrate cognitive, vestibular, and anxiety/mood subtypes, respectively, as compared with their controls (P <. 05). Children and adults with concussion showed significantly more cognitive symptoms than their respective controls (SMD = 0.66 and 0.24; P <. 001). Furthermore, ocular-motor in adult patients (SMD = 0.72; P <. 001) and vestibular symptoms in both pediatric and adult patients (SMD = 0.18 and 0.36; P <. 05) were significantly worse in concussion patients than in controls. CONCLUSION: Five concussion subtypes with varying prevalence within 3 d following injury are commonly seen clinically and identifiable upon systematic literature review. Sleep disturbance, a concussion-associated condition, is also common. There was insufficient information available for analysis of cervical strain. A comprehensive acute concussion assessment defines and characterizes the injury and, therefore, should incorporate evaluations of all 5 subtypes and associated conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2-13
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Concussion
  • head injury
  • meta-analysis
  • mild traumatic brain injury
  • oculomotor
  • subtype
  • systematic review
  • traumatic brain injury
  • vestibular

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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