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Exploring the association between recent concussion, subconcussive impacts and depressive symptoms in male Australian Football players
  1. Sarah Ann Harris1,2,
  2. Paola T Chivers2,3,
  3. Fleur L McIntyre1,
  4. Ben Piggott1,
  5. Max Bulsara2,
  6. Fiona H Farringdon1
  1. 1School of Health Sciences, The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle, Western Australia, Australia
  2. 2Institute for Health Research, The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle, Western Australia, Australia
  3. 3Exercise Medicine Research Institute and School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Western Australia, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sarah Ann Harris; Sarah.Harris{at}


Objectives To explore the association between depressive symptoms and recent head-related trauma (diagnosed concussion, subconcussive impacts) in semiprofessional male Australian Football (AF) players.

Methods Sixty-nine semiprofessional male players from a West Australian Football League (WAFL) club participated in the study (Mage=21.81, SD=2.91 years). Depressive symptoms were measured using the Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. Injuries and potential confounding variables (eg, pre-existing mental health condition; alcohol or drug hangovers; experiencing a stressful event) were self-reported anonymously using the WAFL Injury Report Survey. Both tools were administered every 2-weeks over the first 22-weeks of the WAFL season. Controlling for potential confounding variables and other injuries, a repeated measures generalised estimating equations model assessed the risk of clinically relevant depressive symptoms occurring, when diagnosed concussion or subconcussive impacts were experienced.

Results A total of 10 concussions and 183 subconcussive impacts were reported. Players who experienced a concussion were almost nine times more likely to experience clinically relevant depressive symptoms (OR 8.88, 95% CI 2.65 to 29.77, p<0.001). Although elevated, depressive symptoms following subconcussive impacts were not statistically significant (OR 1.13, 95% CI 0.67 to 1.92, p=0.641).

Conclusion These findings indicate that semiprofessional AF athletes may be at risk of experiencing depressive symptoms after concussion. Severity (concussion vs subconcussive impacts) and dose (number of impacts) appear to have an important relationship with depressive symptom outcomes in this cohort and should be considered for further research and management of player welfare.

  • Australian Football
  • concussion
  • depression

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  • Presented at This work was previously presented at the ASICS Sports Medicine Australia 2017 National Conference in Malaysia.

  • Contributors All authors made substantial contribution to the material submitted including study design, interpretation of results and manuscript development and review. SAH completed the data collection, statistical analysis and manuscript writing. PTC and MB consulted on the statistical analysis.

  • Funding SAH was supported by an Australian University Postgraduate Award (UPA) scholarship.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The University of Notre Dame Australia's Human Research Ethics Committee (014049F).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned.

  • Data availability statement No data are available. No additional data available.

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