Understanding disparities: Steering toward more equitable healthcare

December 11, 2023


By Dayne Hopkins

In a recent study titled Intersection of Race and Socioeconomic Status on Concussion Recovery among NCAA Student-Athletes: A CARE Consortium Study, from 2014 to 2020, researchers from the Michigan Concussion Center and Concussion Assessment, Research, and Education (CARE) Consortium investigated the impact of race and household income on collegiate student-athlete’s recovery from sport-related concussions (SRC).

Looking at the recovery outcomes may contribute to a broader understanding of health disparities among different racial and ethnic groups, lead to targeted prevention and recovery approaches, and help inform policies and practices in collegiate athletics for more equitable health outcomes.

The study, involving 22,819 participants, revealed that the majority of student-athletes identified as White (75%), followed by Black (14%), multiracial (7%), and Asian (3%). Additionally, more than half of all student-athletes reported a household income exceeding $120,000, with 41% of Black student-athletes reporting incomes below $60,000.

Interestingly, the researchers found no significant association between race and the time it took for student-athletes to return to normal academic performance (RTL) or initiate the return-to-play (RTP) protocol. However, race did play a role in the duration of the RTP protocol and the total time to unrestricted return to play (URTP).

NCAA student-athlete race was associated with some components of sport-related concussion recovery, however, they are likely non-clinically meaningful, and so these data would suggest that recovery trajectories following a sport-related concussion are fairly comparable.

Adrian Boltz, doctoral student at the University of Michigan

Non-Black/non-White student-athletes were 17% less likely to complete the RTP protocol, while Black student-athletes were 17% more likely to reach the URTP time point compared to their White counterparts.

These findings raise concerns about potential disparities in the management of sport-related concussions among NCAA student-athletes. The study suggests that clinicians need to be mindful of their implicit biases, as race may influence the duration of RTP protocols and the overall time it takes for student-athletes to achieve unrestricted RTP. The researchers emphasize the importance of addressing the differences in concussion management to ensure quality care for all student-athletes.