Prevention strategies and modifiable risk factors for sport-related concussions and head impacts: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Paul H. Eliason, Jean Michel Galarneau, Ash T. Kolstad, M. Patrick Pankow, Stephen W. West, Stuart Bailey, Lauren Miutz, Amanda Marie Black, Steven P. Broglio, Gavin A. Davis, Brent E. Hagel, Jonathan D. Smirl, Keith A. Stokes, Michael Takagi, Ross Tucker, Nick Webborn, Roger Zemek, Alix Hayden, Kathryn J. Schneider, Carolyn A. Emery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives To evaluate prevention strategies, their unintended consequences and modifiable risk factors for sport-related concussion (SRC) and/or head impact risk. Design This systematic review and meta-analysis was registered on PROSPERO (CRD42019152982) and conducted according to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. Data sources Eight databases (MEDLINE, CINAHL, APA PsycINFO, Cochrane (Systematic Review and Controlled Trails Registry), SPORTDiscus, EMBASE, ERIC0 were searched in October 2019 and updated in March 2022, and references searched from any identified systematic review. Eligibility criteria Study inclusion criteria were as follows: (1) original data human research studies, (2) investigated SRC or head impacts, (3) evaluated an SRC prevention intervention, unintended consequence or modifiable risk factor, (4) participants competing in any sport, (5) analytic study design, (6) systematic reviews and meta-analyses were included to identify original data manuscripts in reference search and (7) peer-reviewed. Exclusion criteria were as follows: (1) review articles, pre-experimental, ecological, case series or case studies and (2) not written in English. Results In total, 220 studies were eligible for inclusion and 192 studies were included in the results based on methodological criteria as assessed through the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network high ('++') or acceptable ('+') quality. Evidence was available examining protective gear (eg, helmets, headgear, mouthguards) (n=39), policy and rule changes (n=38), training strategies (n=34), SRC management strategies (n=12), unintended consequences (n=5) and modifiable risk factors (n=64). Meta-analyses demonstrated a protective effect of mouthguards in collision sports (incidence rate ratio, IRR 0.74; 95% CI 0.64 to 0.89). Policy disallowing bodychecking in child and adolescent ice hockey was associated with a 58% lower concussion rate compared with bodychecking leagues (IRR 0.42; 95% CI 0.33 to 0.53), and evidence supports no unintended injury consequences of policy disallowing bodychecking. In American football, strategies limiting contact in practices were associated with a 64% lower practice-related concussion rate (IRR 0.36; 95% CI 0.16 to 0.80). Some evidence also supports up to 60% lower concussion rates with implementation of a neuromuscular training warm-up programme in rugby. More research examining potentially modifiable risk factors (eg, neck strength, optimal tackle technique) are needed to inform concussion prevention strategies. Conclusions Policy and rule modifications, personal protective equipment, and neuromuscular training strategies may help to prevent SRC. PROSPERO registration number CRD42019152982.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)749-761
Number of pages13
JournalBritish Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain Concussion
  • Preventive Medicine
  • Risk factor
  • Sport

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