The Prevalence of Headache Among Athletic University Students
Asian Journal of Sports Medicine: March 01, 2016, 7 (1); e33515
March 1, 2016
Article Type: Research Article
October 2, 2015
November 17, 2015
November 22, 2015
G. The Prevalence of Headache Among Athletic University Students,
Asian J Sports Med.
Headache is certainly one of the most common medical complaints of general population and one of the important causes of consumption of drugs. Despite its high overall prevalence, the epidemiology of exertional headache is not clear enough.
To determine the prevalence of headache in athletic and non-athletic university students and also estimating its variation between different sports fields including concussion prone sports.
Materials and Methods:
This cross-sectional study comprised 739 subjects (367 athletes and 372 non-athletes). The present study was carried out on athletic and non-athletic university students aging between 18 to 28 years. An athlete was defined as a person who had at least one year of experience in sports including football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, boxing, martial arts, track and field, chess, handball and swimming for three sessions a week each lasting at least 2 hours. The random selection of these participants was done by an independent statistical consultant. A questionnaire was used for data collection which was then analyzed by statistical methods.
Our study comprised 739 subjects (367 athletes and 372 non-athletes). Among athletic university students, 152 (41.2%) participants complained of headache. Such a complaint was present in 217 (58.3%) non-athletic university students. This lower prevalence of headache in athletes was statistically significant (P value < 0.001). Among ten different sports fields, the prevalence of headache among wrestlers was significantly higher than others (P value < 0.001).
The prevalence of headache is seemingly lower in athletic university students than non-athletic ones. In addition, among athletes, those who are participating in concussion prone sports especially wrestling experience headache more than athletes of other fields.
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Headache is certainly one of the most common medical complaints of general population and one of the important causes of consumption of drugs. Despite its high overall prevalence, the epidemiology of exertional headache is not clear enough. Up to 50% of athletes of certain fields report regular headaches due to their athletic participation (
3.8 million sports-related concussions occur per year. Sports-related concussion may contribute to a vast spectrum of neurocognitive symptoms. Headache is a hallmark symptom of such concussions occurring in up to 86% of sufferers and is associated with number, severity and location of previous concussions (
The proper management of sports-related headache requires an adequate understanding of the underlying etiology (
3). Furthermore, identifying the effect of exertion on exacerbation of headache is also important thus limiting the decision for further activity of the individual as an athlete ( 4).
The purpose of current study is determining the prevalence of headache in athletic and non-athletic youth and also estimating its variation between different sports fields including concussion prone sports.
3. Materials and Methods
This study is a cross-sectional one carried out athletic and non-athletic youth. An athlete was defined as a person who had at least one year of experience in sports including football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, boxing, martial arts, track and field, chess, handball and swimming for three sessions a week each lasting at least 2 hours. The random selection of these participants was done by an independent statistical consultant. For omitting confounding variables, both groups were selected among Shiraz university students aging between 18 to 28 years old. Finally, 367 athletic university students and 372 non-athletic ones were enrolled in our study. A predesigned questionnaire was used to assess the subjects’ information retrospectively. All collected data were analyzed by SPSS version 16.0 (Chicago, IL). Chi-square or Fisher’s exact test was used in order to compare variables between athletic and non-athletic university students and also between different sports fields. A P value less than 0.05 was considered significant.
The mean age of athletic and non-athletic university students were 22.46 ± 2.76 and 23 ± 2.45 respectively. 175 (47.7%) athletes were female and 192 (52.3%) were male (F:M ratio = 0.91). In non-athletic group, 222 (59.7%) female and 150 (40.3%) male university students participated in our study. Among athletic university students, 152 (41.2%) participants complained of headache. Such a complaint was found in 217 (58.3%) non-athletic university students. This lower prevalence of headache in athletes was statistically significant (P value < 0.001). 84 (55.3%) athletes and 136 (62.7%) non-athletes both with complaint of headache were female (P values = 0.16 and 0.015 respectively). Among ten different sports fields, the prevalence of headache in wrestlers was significantly higher than others (P value < 0.001). In addition, in boxing, martial arts and track and field, the prevalence of headache, however not statistically significant, was high. The prevalence of headache in athletes in ten different sports fields are summarized in
Tables 1- 3.
Table 1. The Prevalence of Headache in 10 Sports Fields
Sports field Male Female Total Number Headache a Martial arts 8 2 54 28 (51.9) Wrestling 28 0 44 28 (63.6) Track and field 1 22 40 23 (57.5) Handball 2 17 44 19 (33.3) Volleyball 2 12 41 14 (34.1) Football 14 0 71 14 (19.7) Basketball 5 8 38 13 (34.2) Swimming 2 4 18 6 (41.4) Boxing 5 0 10 5 (50) Chess 1 1 7 2 (28.6) Total 68 84 367 152 (41.2)
aValues are expressed as No. (%).
Table 2. Demographic Data
Participants Athlete Non-Athlete Male 192 150 Female 175 222
Table 3. Frequency of Headache Among Athletes and Non-Athletes
Participants Participants With Headache Athletes Female 84 (48) Male 68(35.4) Non-athletes Female 136 (61.2) Male 81 (54)
aValues are expressed as No. (%).
Our study revealed a lower overall prevalence of headache in the athletic group compared with an age/occupation matched non-athletic group. To date, the estimated prevalence of headache in different sports fields has demonstrated a significant and sometimes controversial difference in comparison with that of the general population. In the distance runners, a higher proportion of migraine headache is reported. The runners suffering from migraine headache were significantly younger than others with no migraine headache and most of them had a previous head injury (
5). Despite the higher frequency of headache among the distance runners and similar to our findings, the occurrence of headaches among professional soccer players and also in basketball players appeared to be significantly lower, as compared to that found in the general population ( 6, 7). Furthermore, the prevalence of headache was reported to be higher in Australian football players than what is estimated in community studies varying between 49% during competitive match play and 60% during training ( 8).
A migraine attack occurring in the course of an athletic event, particularly contact sports can simulate a serious neurologic emergency (
9). Comparing the athletes with no headache, athletes complaining of headache and athletes with characteristics of posttraumatic migraine represented that characteristics of posttraumatic migraine triggered by sports-related concussion are related to the increased neurocognitive dysfunction following a minor traumatic brain injury ( 10, 11). Concussion is the result of acceleration-deceleration forces applied to a moving brain caused by either a direct trauma or a sudden shearing/rotational force eventually contributing to a traumatic depolarization within the brain and following neurocognitive impairments ( 12). The higher prevalence of headache among athletes participating in sports associated by more probable concussion including wrestling, boxing and martial arts in our study was similar to findings reported by Guskiewicz et al. and Register-Mihalik et al. ( 2, 13). Such significant increase in prevalence of headache in concussion prone sports has also been showed in other studies ( 14, 15). However, in ours, whether the more probability for concussion occurrence is a leading cause of higher prevalence of headache in mentioned sports fields above or not, remains uncertain. Furthermore, according to our data, a high prevalence is seen among athletes involved in track and field where concussion is not so much common.
Sex differences are also believed to affect the frequency of headache reported by athletes. Headache is reported to be reduced in the female athletes after aerobic exercise in contrast to the male gender showing no signicant change (
16). In contrast, an increased prevalence of migraine was observed in American female basketball players than in men ( 6). In our study, however, no significant correlation of sports-related headache with gender was found. It was not in line with the results of a study in Tehran ( 17).
The total number of each sports field participants in our sampling was selected based on the overall number of university students involved in each one. That is why the number of participants in a few fields are strikingly less than others which seems to be one of the defects of our study.
Based on our findings, the prevalence of headache is seemingly lower in athletic university students than non-athletic ones. In addition, among athletes, those who are participating in concussion prone sports fields experience headache more than athletes of other fields. These findings inspire the consideration of physical activity as a reducing factor in headache prevalence and concussion prone sports as an inducing/aggravating factor of neurocognitive symptoms including headache. However, such presumption requires much more studies worldwide in respect to current controversy.