Posted on March 8, 2012 · Posted in Brain Injury

Researchers appear to be making progress determining what is an accurate recovery time for athletes who suffer concussions, according to a recent story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Editor’s Note: We remain skeptical about the motive for such research or the clinical value it will have.

The story is about data from a joint study on concussion prognoses done by the University of Pittsburgh/University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the concussion team that has been taking care of Penguins hockey player Sidney Crosby. He’s only been able to play in about a half dozen games since he was diagnosed with a concussion in January 2011.

The study, according to the Tribune-Review, involved 108 high school pigskin players who were given an ImPACT test within a 48-hour period of being diagnosed with concussions. Fifty of those players needed, on average, 33 days before being given permission to return to the gridiron, the newspaper reported.

A clinical psychologist involved in the research, Michael Collins, told the Tribune-Review that the 50 players had low scores in half of the four ImPACT categories, namely visual/memory and processing speed.

The typical score in those categories would be 40, but a score of 24 on processing speed, for example, generally means that a player has an 85 percent change of needing more than 30 days to recover from a concussion, according to the Tribune-Review.

And athletes that have symptoms such as migraine headaches and are sensitive to light and noise are also likely to take longer to recover from a concussion, the story says.

Collins appears optimistic that researchers are getting better and better at determining an accurate prognosis for when an athlete, or patient, has recovered from a concussion.

Pennsylvania’s state Senate passed the Youth and Safety Sports Act on Nov. 1, and it set a procedure for dealing with suspected concussions in young athletes. Under that law, a physician can designate a health care professional trained in evaluating and managing concussions to treat student athletes, “along with a licensed psychologist with neuropsychological training,” according to the Tribune-Review.

As a case study regarding making a prognosis on concussions, the story used as an  example 16-year-old cheerleader Kaylee Amend, who has sustained six concussions in seven years. Collins’ testing of Amend determined that she will have to stay out of classes another four weeks as she recovers from that sixth concussion.

Amend sustained her latest concussion in late January, and took an ImPACT test two days later, the Tribune-Review reported. When she took the test again in late February, her scores were worse than in January, hence the prognosis that she must not return to school for at least a month.

But it remains unclear if Amend can return to cheerleading, given her history of having so many concussions in recent time, according to the story.


About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447