Jun 22, 2015
Studies: Concussion and Migraines Closely Linked

A pair of recent studies have reinforced the link between concussion and headaches, particularly migraines. Taken together, the studies stress the importance of checking for headaches when diagnosing and treating concussion.

“Clinicians must be aware of the various presentations of both primary headaches like migraine as well as postconcussive headaches so that a correct diagnosis can be made and effective treatment instituted,” Tad Seifert, MD, director of the Sports Concussion Program at Norton Healthcare and clinical assistant professor of neurology at the University of Kentucky, Louisville, told Medscape Medical News. “A comprehensive preseason evaluation that reviews personal headache history, family history of headache, and documentation of previous head trauma is imperative [in order] to aid medical staff in the diagnosis and management of future headache complaints.”

Seifert’s study found that one-third of 74 high football players from the Louisville area reported a history of migraines compared to the estimated 16 percent  rate for the general population. The number of migraine sufferers was even higher (41 percent) in players who reported a previous concussion.

The second study, using a random selection of 25 teenage athletes treated at the Florida Center for Headache and Sports Neurology, found that 100 percent of them reported a headache right after a concussion or during the recovery process, while only five percent lost consciousness. Both studies were presented during the American Headache Society Annual Scientific Meeting earlier in June.

“We found that everybody we saw had a headache during some part of their sports-related concussion,” principal investigator Dr. Frank Conidi, main neurologist for the Florida Center told Health Day News.  “A majority if not all of the headaches were consistent with migraines.”

Conidi also said that proper treatment is needed at the time of concussion to avoid future problems down the road.

“I see a number of these people go on to develop chronic headaches,” he said. “If these people were treated properly initially, they wouldn’t go on to develop chronic headaches.”

Dr. David Dodick, Chair of the American Migraine Foundation, added that drugs used to treat migraines don’t always work on those caused by concussion and little research as been to identify drugs that might. 

“Post-traumatic headache is a very challenging medical disorder to treat,” Dodick said. “And there hasn’t been a single placebo-controlled study examining any drug used to treat athletes who are experiencing post-traumatic headache. That, in 2015, is incredible.”


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