College can be a tough time for many. Between the pressures of being independent for the first time and the challenges of higher education, the period can put a lot of stress on the brain. Maybe that is why new research suggests that college students typically take significantly longer to recover from concussions compared to the average person.
The team of researchers, led by Dr. Prakash Jayabalan from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, came to this conclusion after reviewing the charts of 128 students who suffered a concussion during the 2014-2015 academic year at Northwestern University.
Of those students, 44 were varsity athletes and 33 played club sports. An additional 35 students played recreational sports and 17 did not report any regular physical activity. The average age of the injured students was 20.
The researchers say the students generally took much longer than the national average of 7 to 14 days to recover from their brain injury, however, there were notable differences between the groups.
The average recovery times for varsity athletes were within the average range, at 11.5 days. However, club athletes took nearly 19 days and recreational athletes took an average of almost 23 days to recover. Jayabalan and colleagues say the variance could be due to the amount of medical support different athletic groups received. For example, varsity athletes tend to receive the most care.
The report, scheduled to be presented at the annual meeting of the Association of Academic Psychiatrists this week in Las Vegas, also finds many other noticeable variances in concussion recovery length within different groups involved in the study.
Keeping in line with past research, women involved in the study took longer than males to recover – averaging 21 days compared to almost 15 days. Graduate students also took an extremely long time to recover compared to undergraduates. Graduate students took an average of 31 days while undergraduates needed only 16 days.
“Recovering from a concussion requires active rest and refraining from excessive physical and cognitive stimuli, such as contact sports, reading, writing and even the need for limitation of watching television and online activities,” lead investigator Dr. Prakash Jayabalan, said in an association news release.
“These are all things that the average college student encounters on a daily basis and will find challenging to limit. Therefore, our research team wanted to determine if recovery time for patients in a college setting is different from those people outside of that setting,” he said.
The findings highlight the need for early intervention and better medical treatment for college students who experience concussions, especially for those without the high-level medical care of varsity athletes. However, the study is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.