When an athlete suffers a traumatic brain injury, it is recommended they be pulled from play and practice for roughly a week. The idea underlying this suggestion is that TBI or concussions only affect players for around 7 days. This is also true for concussions as a whole, but these widely held beliefs are being regularly shaken by new research.
A recent study by the University of Oregon is the latest to destabilize the idea that concussions can be healed from in a week. Their results show that football players have more trouble focusing and switching tasks for a period of up to two months after a brain injury. This means current standards are likely off by quite a lot.
“The differences we detected may be a matter of milliseconds between a concussed person and a control subject, but as far as brain time goes that difference for a linebacker returning to competition too soon could mean the difference between another injury or successfully preparing to safely tackle an oncoming running back,” David Howell, graduate student in the UO Department of Human Physiology, said in the study which will be published in the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.
According to RedOrbit, these findings also reflect the period which a person may be sensitive to more injuries. “If a person goes back to the playing field without a full recovery, that person is put into great danger of being re-injured. In any given season, if you suffer a concussion, the chances of your suffering a second one is 3 to 6 times higher and suffering a third is 8 times higher. There are accumulations in this kind of injury. It doesn’t go away easily.”
As a non-athlete who suffered a brain injury early in 2012, I felt serious issues for just short of two years, so these findings help explain a lot to me about why everyone I knew said concussions are short-term, but doctors told me my problems were not uncommon.
There is still much to learn about traumatic brain injury, but there is already enough information to know we should be taking TBI more seriously.