The accumulation of subconcussive impacts on cognitive, imaging, and biomarker outcomes in child and college-aged athletes: a systematic review

Alexa E. Walter, James R. Wilkes, Peter A. Arnett, Sayers John Miller, Wayne Sebastianelli, Peter Seidenberg, Semyon M. Slobounov

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Examine the effect of subconcussive impact accumulation on cognitive/functional, imaging, and biomarker outcomes over the course of a single season, specifically in contact sport athletes at collegiate level or younger. Systematic review following PRISMA guidelines and using Oxford Center for Evidence-Based Medicine 2011 Levels of Evidence and Newcastle Ottawa Assessment Scale. PubMed MEDLINE, PsycInfo, SPORT-Discus, Web of Science. Original research in English that addressed the influence of subconcussive impacts on outcomes of interest with minimum preseason and postseason measurement in current youth, high school, or college-aged contact sport athletes. 796 articles were initially identified, and 48 articles were included in this review. The studies mostly involved male football athletes in high school or college and demonstrated an underrepresentation of female and youth studies. Additionally, operationalization of previous concussion history and concussion among studies was very inconsistent. Major methodological differences existed across studies, with ImPACT and diffusion tensor imaging being the most commonly used modalities. Biomarker studies generally showed negative effects, cognitive/functional studies mostly revealed no effects, and advanced imaging studies showed generally negative findings over the season; however, there was variability in the findings across all types of studies. This systematic review revealed growing literature on this topic, but inconsistent methodology and operationalization across studies makes it challenging to draw concrete conclusions. Overall, cognitive measures alone do not seem to detect changes across this timeframe while imaging and biomarker measures may be more sensitive to changes following subconcussive impacts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)503-517
Number of pages15
JournalBrain Imaging and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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