Providing a clearer insight into how concussion and pain impact mental health, cognition, and quality of life
Much of the present literature suggests that sport-related concussion (SRC) can lead to poor mental health, impaired cognition, and reduced quality of life. However, physical pain has also been reported to have the same influence on these three outcomes, and while SRC and pain often accompany each other, it is surprising that little research assesses the two simultaneously. Therefore, the present study aimed to further investigate the relationship the two factors have on the three outcomes. Depression was measured using the Center for Epidemiological Studies, anxiety was assessed using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory while the SF-12 recorded quality of life. A trail-making test assessed cognitive flexibility of participants. Data analysis of 84 participants (Concussed 45 vs. 39 Non-concussed) revealed that (i) SRC history was related to reduced accuracy in the cognitive flexibility task but had no bearing on mental health symptoms and quality of life scores, and (ii) physical pain was not related to cognitive flexibility but was responsible for poorer mental health and lower quality of life. This study, like no other to our knowledge, highlights the different influence that SRC and pain have on mental health, cognition, and quality of life. With the knowledge that concussion appears to be more responsible for impaired cognition whereas physical pain is associated with poorer mental health and reduced quality of life, we are better placed to predict the outcome of these events and support athletes that have sustained SRC, are experiencing physical pain, or both.