Monday, January 6, 2020

Early Treatment Key to Rapid Concussion Recovery

Young athletes who sustain a concussion are more likely to achieve a speedy recovery if they start receiving clinical care right away, according to a study published today in JAMA Neurology. On average, athletes who were evaluated and began treatment within seven days of their head injury recovered within 51 days, compared with 66 days for athletes who were evaluated eight or more days postinjury.

“[O]nce care was established, time to recovery did not differ for athletes evaluated within the first week of injury compared with those evaluated 2 to 3 weeks postinjury,” wrote Anthony Kontos, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh Medical College (UPMC) and colleagues. The similarity in treatment time indicates the delay in receiving initial care was the primary factor for taking longer to recover, Kontos and colleagues added.

The researchers assessed the recovery time of 162 youth aged 12 to 22 who attended a sports medicine clinic for a concussion between August 2016 and March 2018. Of this group, 98 were evaluated within seven days of concussion (the early group), and 64 were evaluated eight to 20 days after the injury (the late group). The athletes were considered to have recovered from the concussion and cleared to return to active sports if they met the following conditions: showed no concussion-related symptoms at rest; performed at his/her preinjury levels on cognitive, visual, and vestibular (balance/orientation) tests; and had no increase in symptoms after physical activity.

Sixty-three of the 162 athletes recovered within 30 days, while 99 athletes took more than 30 days to recover. The researchers found that athletes in the late group were 5.8 times as likely to require more than 30 days of recovery as those in the early group. The only other factor that was associated with a longer recovery time was the presence of having visual vertigo (dizziness triggered by moving objects) during the initial evaluation. The authors suggested the lengthened recovery in these instances occurs because patients are referred for vestibular therapy, which takes additional time. 

“Among athletes playing at a competitive level, earlier care may lead to fewer games or competitions missed. Similarly, it is reasonable to speculate that student athletes may benefit from fewer missed days of school and may not fall behind in academic achievement if seen earlier,” Kontos and colleagues wrote.

For more information, see the Psychiatric News article “Saliva Biomarkers May Predict How Long Concussion Symptoms Will Last in Youth.”

(Image: iStock/skynesher)

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