High school athletes who returned to the field after being medically cleared within 60 days of a concussion experienced significant regression in their ability to walk and do simple mental tasks simultaneously, according to results from a University of Oregon study.
The study included 19 adolescents with concussion who returned to preinjury activity within 2 months following injury and 19 uninjured, matched controls. Researchers had participants complete symptom inventories, computerized cognitive testing, and single- and dual-task gait analyses at five time points: within 72 hours of injury and again at 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month and 2 months.
Changes in walking speed and/or balance were seen in 12 out of 19 athletes, according to a University of Oregon press release. Ten of the 12 had returned to activity in less than a month. Seven athletes, who performed similarly to uninjured control subjects, had returned to action more than 20 days after their injuries.
“We had seen this same type of curve in an earlier study of college athletes,” study author Li-Shan Chou, PhD, said in the press release. “We didn’t have any evidence linking it to a return to activity, but we did discuss that possibility, because we knew that they usually were permitted to return to practice 2 weeks after a concussion.”
The current standard for allowing most athletes to return to activity is based mostly on self-reports of symptoms and individual assessments of cognition or motor function, according to the release.
Reference: Howell DR. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014; doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000000462.