As an athletic trainer one of the most difficult tasks is convincing the athlete, parent, and coaches that their son or daughter is hurt. With a concussion everything “looks normal” most times (except for the cases of overt signs). Even with the signs that present most resolve rather quickly and again those affected by the head injury think everything is OK; it’s not like a bone is broken or there is imaging to SHOW an injury/problem.
For a long time researchers have been trying to identify what sign or symptom relates to prolonged recovery. Early on, 80’s and 90’s, the thought was loss of consciousness was the indicator; later to be not the case, and the understanding that one does not have to be KO’ed to get a concussion. Within the community we have used the term feeling “foggy” as a high indicator of prolonged recovery, but that is a very subjective symptom and really unproven, more observational. This might be changing as a very INITIAL study was released by Dr. Brian Lau of the UPMC in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.
The study was done on male football players, but the findings indicate that more information is needed, and Dr. Lau stresses that parents and athletes NOT ignore any sign or symptoms. Further studies are needed across sports and gender but here is what the findings are, via Reuters;
Researchers found that of 107 high school football players who’d suffered a concussion on the field, those whose injury had immediately triggered dizziness were at greater risk of a prolonged recovery.
Of the 87 who’d had dizziness, 34 — or 39 percent — needed three weeks or more to get the medical OK to return to the sport. And their odds of a long recovery were seven times higher versus players who had not suffered dizziness.
“We believe that dizziness is an important factor in length of recovery,” lead researcher Dr. Brian C. Lau, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told Reuters Health by email.
Further explaining in the article;
But overall, dizziness was the only symptom linked to the odds of a prolonged recovery (three weeks or more).
In all, 36 players had a prolonged recovery, nearly all of whom had dizziness as an initial symptom. Another 62 had a “rapid” recovery of one week or less.
It was surprising that no symptom other than dizziness was related to the odds of a long recovery, according to the researchers.
Again, this is a preliminary study more research is needed but we should all pay attention to symptoms and signs and treat each as if they will need 3 weeks or more to recover.