Department of Psychology, Public Presentation of a Doctoral Thesis: Ingunn S. Unnsteinsdóttir Kristensen

Concussion History Among Icelandic Female Athletes: Mental Health, Cognition and Possible Concussion Biomarkers

  • 9.12.2022, 11:00 - 12:00

Ingunn S. Unnsteinsdóttir Kristensen will present and discuss her PhD thesis “Concussion History Among Icelandic Female Athletes: Mental Health, Cognition and Possible Concussion Biomarker” Friday December 9th at 11:00. Ingunn has already defended her Thesis in a closed session.

The presentation will be held on-site at Reykjavik University, Room M101, in English and open to the public.

Title: Concussion History Among Icelandic Female Athletes: Mental Health, Cognition and Possible Concussion Biomarkers

Author: Ingunn S. Unnsteinsdóttir Kristensen

Supervisor: Dr. María Kristín Jónsdóttir

Co-Supervisor: Dr. Hafrún Kristjánsdóttir

Date and Time: December 9th at 11:00

Location: M101


Concussion symptoms are complex. They are non-specific to a concussion, and there is no gold standard for diagnosis and evaluation. For most, symptoms will resolve in days or weeks following a concussion. However, symptoms can become more serious, lasting for months or even years, considerably affecting quality of life. Long-lasting concussion symptoms can include worse mental health and cognitive function, impaired sleep, and ocular and vestibular problems. Sports are a significant risk factor for concussions. Previous concussions, medical history and background, age and gender are also factors influencing the prevalence and the sequela of concussion and progression of symptoms. Despite being underrepresented in the concussion literature, many studies have found that women are more at risk of sustaining a concussion and have more severe symptoms.

All of the participants in this study were Icelandic female athletes, retired and still active. All had been playing at the highest level in their sport in Iceland. The aims of this Thesis were to 1) examine the usefulness of self-report of concussion history and test if different methods of obtaining self-report would affect the report given and the relationship with an outcome variable; 2) examine concussion history and symptoms among retired and still active female athletes and the relationship with mental health and cognitive abilities; 3) validate self-reported concussion history and symptoms by assessing phycological responses and physical markers in a virtual reality environment.

Self-reported history varied according to the method used to elicit concussion history. This change indicates a lack of concussion knowledge and that detailed questioning might be preferable when asking for a self-report of concussion history. This change and how groups were formed depending on concussion count affected the relationship with current symptoms. History of concussion was connected to poorer impulse control, more current post-concussion symptoms and more problems with sleep, as well as more anxiety and depression symptoms. Retired athletes with a concussion history tended to have a worse outcome. When evaluating concussion symptoms and responses in a virtual reality environment, biological signals showed discriminative powers when comparing those with and without a concussion history. This supports their use as possible biomarkers for concussion. The Random forest algorithm predicted concussion history with over 90% accuracy.

Overall, the findings support the use of self-report while assessing concussion history and symptoms among female athletes with the appropriate framework. However, the limitations of self-report and how they can affect results are also recognised. In addition, results suggest that concussion history is connected to worse mental health and poorer impulse control. The findings also highlight the use of a multimodal approach to concussion assessment and support the use of several biological measures as possible biomarkers for concussion. Results also underline the importance of including technology from different fields in concussion assessment.

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