Athletes 'May Be Returning To Action Too Soon After Head Injuries'

New Studies Show Concussion Recovery May Take Longer Than First Thought

21.11.2013

Sportspeople who return to action shortly after suffering a concussion may be putting themselves in danger.

New studies conducted in the US have shown the recovery time for this type of injury may be longer than it was first thought.

Published in the American Academy of Neurology's online journal Neurology, the findings suggested the brain is still injured even when the main symptoms have disappeared.

Report author Andrew Mayer of the Mind Research Network and University of New Mexico School of Medicine in Albuquerque, confirmed that special scans identified brain abnormalities four months after somebody had been concussed.

"These results suggest that there are potentially two different modes of recovery for concussion, with the memory, thinking and behavioural symptoms improving more quickly than the physiological injuries in the brain." he commented.

The researchers compared 50 people who had suffered a mild concussion with the same number of healthy people of a similar age and education.

After two weeks, those who had sustained a blow to the head were said to have more mental problems, physical ailments in the form of headaches and dizziness and emotional issues.

Although the symptoms had reduced by 27 per cent four months after the initial injury, it was still far too early to give the patients a clean bill of health.
 
Mr Mayer said that standard CT or MRI scans would not pick up on the subtle changes in the brain at this stage, so there is a danger that sports stars could be allowed to return to action before they have fully recovered.

This is a particularly timely study, given the recent debate over head injuries in sports such as rugby, boxing, American football and soccer.

Earlier this month, Tottenham Hotspur's medical staff were criticised after allowing goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to finish a match against Everton, despite sustaining a head injury.

Lloris was knocked unconscious during the game and the incident has led to calls for the rules to be changed so that players who suffer concussion are removed from the field immediately.

Expert Opinion
It is important that the findings of this study are taken into consideration. The effect that serious head injuries can have on victims simply cannot be overstated and it is well known that early intervention in the form of treatment and rehabilitation can play a vital role in the recovery process.

“People who suffer from head injuries do not always display physical symptoms, so it is important the appropriate scans are given to patients to ensure underlying problems are not missed.

“Head injuries have to be treated very seriously, as they are often misunderstood and can result in not only physical problems but emotional and mental issues. They must be monitored strictly by professionals to ensure that the patient makes a full recovery.”
Lisa Jordan, Partner