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Front Neurol. 2018 Jan 18;8:753. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2017.00753. eCollection 2017.

Heart Rate Variability in Healthy Non-Concussed Youth Athletes: Exploring the Effect of Age, Sex, and Concussion-Like Symptoms.

Author information

1
Rehabilitation Sciences Institute, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.
2
Concussion Centre, Bloorview Research Institute, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Toronto, ON, Canada.
3
Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.
4
Faculty of Medicine, Rehabilitation Sciences Institute, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.
5
Bloorview Research Institute, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Toronto, ON, Canada.
6
Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.

Abstract

Background:

Heart rate variability (HRV) is a non-invasive neurophysiological measure of autonomic nervous system regulation emerging in concussion research. To date, most concussion studies have focused on the university-aged athlete with no research examining healthy active youths. Corroborating changes in HRV alongside traditional subjective self-report measures (concussion symptoms) in the non-concussed state provides a foundation for interpreting change following concussion. The objectives were to (1) explore the influence of age and sex on HRV and (2) examine the relationship between HRV and baseline/pre-injury concussion symptom domains (physical, cognitive, emotional, and fatigue) in healthy youth athletes.

Method:

Healthy, youth athletes 13-18 years of age [N = 294, female = 166 (56.5%), male = 128 (43.5%)] participated in this cross-sectional study. Age, sex, and concussion-like symptoms were collected as part of a baseline/pre-injury assessment. The Post-Concussion Symptom Inventory-SR13 (PCSI-SR13) was used to collect domain scores for physical, cognitive, emotional, and fatigue symptoms. HRV was collected for 24 h. HRV measures included time (SDNN, RMSSD, and pNN50) and frequency (HF, HFnu, LF, LFnu, and total power) domain HRV measures. Variables were logarithmically transformed to increase robustness of linear regression models.

Results:

Older youth participants displayed significantly higher HRV compared to younger participants (p < 0.05). Females displayed significantly lower HRV compared to males (p < 0.05). A significant interaction effect between concussion-like symptoms and HRV indicated differential patterns as a function of sex (p < 0.05). Youth athletes who reported more cognitive symptoms had lower HRV (p < 0.05).

Conclusion:

HRV was found to have a significant relationship with a traditional clinical measure (subjective self-report of concussion-like symptoms) utilized in concussion assessment and management. Baseline/pre-concussion trends in HRV were significantly associated with age and sex, highlighting the value in understanding key demographic factors within the context of concussion-like symptoms.

KEYWORDS:

concussion; healthy; heart rate variability; non-injured; symptoms; youth athlete

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