If you suffer a concussion, seek specialized medical evaluation as soon as possible: Earlier treatment may speed recovery time significantly, according to a study in JAMA Neurology.
A concussion is an acute brain injury caused by a blow or other impact to the head in which the brain gets shaken within the skull, resulting in physical, cognitive, mood, and sleep-related symptoms. Of 162 young athletes, ages 12 to 22, who were diagnosed with a concussion sustained during recreational sports activities, those who sought treatment within a week of the injury recovered about three weeks faster on average than those who waited longer (eight to 20 days), despite there being no or few differences in demographics, medical history, injury characteristics, symptom severity, or eventual clinical outcomes between the two groups.
The authors attributed the shorter recovery time to earlier initiation of active rehabilitation (which may include vestibular therapy to reduce concussion-related dizziness and a supervised return to exercise), as well as to the patients’ receiving post-concussion behavioral recommendations sooner regarding sleep, hydration, and stress management.
Recovery was defined as return to being asymptomatic or to preinjury symptom levels and to preinjury cognitive, ocular (visual), and vestibular functioning, with no symptoms upon exertion. Other factors that influence recovery time include preinjury health status, age, and medical history. It’s not clear if the new findings apply to other populations, including older people.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.