Physical Conditioning Strategies for the Prevention of Concussion in Sport: a Scoping Review

Daniel Garnett, Jon Patricios and Saul Cobbing. Sports Medicine – Open (2021) 7:31


Background: Concussion in sports has received a great deal of media attention and may result in short and longer-lasting symptoms, especially in adolescents. Although significant strides have been made in the identification and management of concussion, less is known about the primary prevention of this condition. The aims of this scoping review are to (1) summarize the current research of physical conditioning strategies to reduce or prevent concussion incidence in individuals participating in sport, especially adolescents, and (2) to identify gaps in the knowledge base. Our research question was what is known from the existing literature about physical preparation strategies to reduce or prevent concussion in adult and adolescent sports?

Methods: Three literature searches were conducted by information officers at two universities at six-month intervals, using five electronic databases (PubMed;; Mendeley; EBSCOHost and Ovid MEDLINE). To increase the search range, subject experts were consulted and articles and reference lists were hand searched. A scoping review methodology identified eligible studies that analyzed physical preparation techniques on modifiable physical risk factors in athletes to reduce the incidence of concussion. The PRISMA-ScR checklist guided the reporting of the findings.

Results: A total of 1414 possible articles were identified, after duplicates removed, and articles analyzed against the inclusion and exclusion criteria, only 9 articles qualified for analysis. Two articles were found from studying reference lists. Thus, a total of 11 articles were included in the final evaluation for the purposes of this study. Data are reported from mostly adolescent subjects participating in nine different sports from three countries. Findings are presented with specific reference to previously recognized modifiable risk factors of concussion which include neck strength, neck size, cervical stiffness, type of sport, and pre-activity exercises.

Conclusions: There is limited research examining the physical preparation of athletes, especially in adolescents, to reduce or prevent concussion, and conflicting evidence in the few small sample studies that were identified. This scoping review identifies the research gap for a potentially vital modifiable risk factor, notably in the physical preparation of children and adolescents to reduce or prevent sports-related concussion.