Cerebral concussion: a historical perspective

Prog Neurol Surg -


Maroon, J. C., C. Mathyssek and J. Bost.



No topic in sports has gathered more attention and publicity than the diagnosis, management, and long-term effects of cerebral concussion. The relevant history of concussion starts in 1905 when President Theodore Roosevelt drew attention to the football ‘death harvest’. Soon after, rules started to change to reduce the amount and severity of head injuries in football. Up until 1980, the primary focus regarding concussions was to diagnose a potentially fatal intracranial hemorrhage. While aware of long-term consequences of concussions, the perception at the time was that virtually all concussions would ‘clear’ with time and rest. Concussion management guidelines gave way to objective neuropsychological testing in the early 1990s with the development of the ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) neurocognitive test. Led by organized football, in 1994 the National Football League (NFL) formed the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee which began to investigate the cause of concussions, evaluate equipment (particularly helmets), and recommend methods for prevention. In 2005, the first case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy was described in a deceased football player, raising concerns about the long-term consequences of head injuries and concussions. Major advancements in contact sports and the military are underway to reduce the incidence of concussions and subconcussive blows to the head.

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