Longer Concussion Recovery May Be Linked to Psychiatric Disorders

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Normally, concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries normally only take 7-10 days to recover from, researchers have long been seeking to understand why some individuals who suffer mild brain injuries can take months to recover.

Researchers from St. Vincent Sports Performance and the Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention in Indianapolis believe they may have found the answer according to a presentation at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Annual Meeting held May 27-31.

The researchers believe prolonged recovery from concussions may be related to further psychiatric disorders, at least in relation to athletes with brain injuries.

They studied 76 athletes aged 8-23 years who had sports-related concussions and had been referred to neuropsychological specialists for further evaluation after an average of 4.4 months. Some of the athletes involved in the study experienced a concussion or concussion symptoms that lasted up to a year.

The majority of the athletes involved in the study (73.7%) met the formal diagnostic criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder. Additionally, some of the athletes (64.3%) met the criteria for one comorbid psychiatric condition, 23.3% fulfilled the criteria for two comorbid conditions, 8.9% for three, and 3.6% for 4.

According to the researchers, 27 athletes were identified to have adjustment disorders, 21 athletes were found to have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), 18 had anxiety disorder, 10 had learning disabilities, and 9 suffered from depression and/or mood disorders.

All the participants in the study were evaluated with the Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) database, however the test did not always reflect the patients’ underlying issues.

“In these cases, the symptoms aren’t matching up to the results of computerized testing,” Adam Shunk, PhD, HSPP, NCSP, said in a press release. “Either the athletes are still complaining of symptoms but their ImPACT results have returned to normal, or the ImPACT test shows deficits when they have no other signs or symptoms of concussion.”

Shunk suggested the deficits mentioned by patients but not indicated by the ImPACT test may result from a learning disability or mood disorders.

“Sometimes, people are complaining about headaches and further emotional issues, but those complains may be related to just the psychological conditions,” Vincent Nittoli, MS, LAT, ATC, of SVSP told HCPLive. “It could have nothing to do with the actual concussion itself.”

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