Yes–athletes who have had a concussion are experiencing more lower body injuries, which includes the dreaded ACL tear. But why? How can a brain injury result in injuring your knee?

In a 2016 study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, recently concussed student-athletes were observed for acute non-contact lower extremity musculoskeletal injuries during the 90-day period after being cleared to return-to-play, and they were matched with control athletes (“by sport team/sex, games played and position”) who did not have a history of concussions in past 12 months. The results showed that “the odds of sustaining an acute lower extremity musculoskeletal injury during the 90-day period after return-to-play were 2.48 times higher in concussed athletes than controls during the same 90-day period.”

Concussion Increases Odds of Sustaining a Lower Extremity Musculoskeletal Injury After Return to Play Among Collegiate Athletes

 

Women's Soccer vs. Iowa

In a similar 2015 study conducted at the University of North Carolina, concussed college athletes were paired with non-concussed athletes; “pre- and post-concussion musculoskeletal injury rates were calculated for 90-, 180-, and 365-day periods” for both groups of athletes. The results showed that within a year, the concussed group was 1.97 times more likely to have an acute lower extremity musculoskeletal injury than before being concussed; 1.64 times more likely to have a lower musculoskeletal injury than their matched non-concussed control athlete over the same time period; and within 180 days after being concussed, athletes were 2.02 times more likely to have an acute lower extremity musculoskeletal injury than they were pre-concussion.

Acute lower extremity injury rates increase following concussion in college athletes

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These 2 published studies both showed similar results–that concussions appear to be playing a significant role in lower extremity injuries. Some potential reasons that were discussed in the articles:

  • Abnormal motor functioning
  • Issues with attentional resource allocation
  • Neuromuscular/balance/postural impairments

Unfortunately, there is no amount of physical training that will “fix” an athlete’s impaired motor functioning and balance (which results after returning-to-play from a concussion). These impairments are neurological. Just as you can physically rehab and strengthen your knee after surgery, you can do the same for your brain. Training your brain and regaining/strengthening these cognitive skills is now a reality… (See Blog Post: “Part II. The Solution: Are Concussions Leading to Torn ACLs?“)