Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and Postconcussive Symptom Endorsement: A Parallel Comparison between Two Nonclinical Cohorts

R. Elisabeth Cornwell, Jorge I. Arango, C. B. Eagye, Candace Hill-Pearson, Karen Schwab, Alicia R. Souvignier, Renee M. Pazdan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: The prevalence of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is commonly estimated based on indirect metrics such as emergency department visits and self-reporting tools. The study of postconcussive symptoms faces similar challenges because of their unspecific character and indistinct causality. In this article, we compare two nonclinical, epidemiological studies that addressed these two elements and were performed within a relatively narrow period in the state of Colorado. Materials and Methods: De-identified datasets were obtained from a random digit-dialed survey study conducted by the Craig Hospital and a study surveying soldiers returning from deployment by Defense and Veteran Traumatic Brain Injury Center. Information pertinent to participants' demographics, a history of mTBI, and symptom endorsement was extracted and homogenized in order to establish a parallel comparison between the populations of the two studies. Results: From the 1,558 (Warrior Strong, 679; Craig Hospital, 879) records selected for analysis, 43% reported a history of at least one mTBI. The prevalence was significantly higher among individuals from the Defense and Veteran Traumatic Brain Injury Center study independent of gender or race. Repetitive injuries were reported by 15% of the total combined cohort and were more prevalent among males. Symptom endorsement was significantly higher in individuals with a positive history of mTBI, but over 80% of those with a negative history of mTBI endorsed at least one of the symptoms interrogated. Significant differences were observed between the military and the civilian populations in terms of the types and frequencies of the symptoms endorsed. Conclusions: The prevalence of mTBI and associated symptoms identified in the two study populations is higher than that of previously reported. This suggests that not all individuals sustaining concussion seek medical care and highlights the limitations of using clinical reports to assess such estimates. The lack of appropriate mechanisms to determine symptom presence and causality remains a challenge. However, the differences observed in symptom reporting between cohorts raise questions about the nature of the symptoms, the impact on the quality of life for different individuals, and the effects on military health and force readiness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E1191-E1198
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


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