As the severity of football’s concussion problem has become harder to ignore in recent years, a number of tools and assessment systems have been created to help identify and treat brain injuries among athletes in high-school or older.
However, few of these tools have been tested to verify if they are effective for younger athletes.
Now, a report in the July issue of Pediatrics finds that The Sport Concussion Assessment Tool version 3 (SCAT3) and the modified version for children (ChildSCAT3) can both accurately identify concussions in children between five and 16 years old.
As the authors of the study from The Royal Children’s Hospital, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, and the University of Melbourne say in their report, their study “provides valuable insight into the validity of SCAT3 and ChildSCAT3, which will be critical for the development of pending iterations of the tools.”
Both tools evaluate concussions based on five measurements: symptom assessment, cognitive assessment (attention and new learning) by using the standardized assessment of concussion (SAC) and the SAC child version (SAC-C), neck examination, balance assessment (modified balance error scoring system), and coordination examination.
To evaluate the effectivity of the tools, the researchers used the SCAT3 and ChildSCAT3 to assess children in emergency departments who had been clinically diagnosed with a concussion and compared the findings against those from a group of healthy children and a group of children being treated with an upper-limb injury.
The researchers divided the children into three groups based on age: those between 5 and 8-years-old, 9 to 12, and 13 to 16-years-old. The children between five and 12-years-old were assessed using the ChildSCAT3, while the older participants were evaluated using SCAT3.
Overall, the findings showed that the children with concussions showed more symptoms that were more severe than either of the control groups.
While the team says the tool appears to be effective at identifying early signs of a concussion, it may not be able to predict the development of delayed symptoms that are common with brain injuries.
“To date, limited research has considered the validity of the SCAT3 and ChildSCAT3 in children despite their widespread dissemination and use,” the authors write.
“Given the nonspecific nature of many concussion symptoms, the present findings provide important evidence to support the validity of both SCAT3 and ChildSCAT3 to distinguish children who have experienced a concussion from those with other common pediatric injuries (ie, ULIs) at acute presentation,” conclude the study authors.
Tools like these have already become a major part of diagnosing concussions in older athletes and veterans, but it is important to remember that younger children are even more vulnerable to concussions. They deserve similar tools that can identify their injury and keep their brains safe.