The lasting effects of Concussion: Verbal and memory impairments last longer than other symptoms

More sport teams are doing base-line measurements than before – targeting young players who are susceptible to concussions. Base-line measurements compare a person’s body or bodily function both before and after a ‘concussive event’. Some base-line measurements seem to limit such measuring to the player’s sense of balance but that does not reflect the full effects of a concussive event.

Anthony Kontos, PhD, from the University of Pittsburgh, said “More and more people are starting to realize that you need to take a comprehensive approach so that you don’t send a kid back who might be recovered on one measure but not another,”

Brain injury by Samarttiw

Brain injury by Samarttiw

Dr Kontos and his team followed 24 female and 42 male high-school and college athletes after a diagnosis of concussion in accordance with established medical guidelines. The average age of the athletes was 16.5 years.

Key Findings:

  • The biggest improvements in self-reported symptoms occurred in the first 2 weeks, but they continued to improve up to 4 weeks.
  • Verbal and memory impairments last longer than vestibular (balance and eye movement) and oculomotor (vision) symptoms.
  • Female athletes took longer to recover than male athletes.
  • Clinicians are advised to follow a more comprehensive approach, not just one, to assess whether an athlete has recovered from a concussion. This approach may measure changes in such areas as: 1) verbal memory, 2) visual memory, 3) visual motor processing speed, 4) reaction time 5) dizziness, 6) vestibular and 7) oculomotor symptoms.

As a practitioner, I also found that among those patients who have had concussions – whether from sport injuries, whiplash injuries or car accidents – self-report memory impairment seems to last longer than the patient’s balance impairment.

Some clinicians suggest that concussion recovery requires only a 7- to 14- day recovery period. However, this consensus is based upon studies of male American football players that looked ONLY at neurocognitive tests and symptoms.

The study conducted by Dr. Kontos was only limited to 4 weeks due to funding limitation. Some imaging studies (PET scan) have suggested abnormalities beyond that time period.

Dr Kontos presented his findings at the American College of Sports Medicine 62nd Annual Meeting 2015.

References: Br J Sports Med2013;47:250-258

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