Receiving early treatment for a concussion during the days after a head trauma appears to be key to reducing recovery time, according to the findings of new research.
In a study published this week in the medical journal JAMA Neurology, researchers indicate that individuals who wait longer than one week before receiving concussion treatment, or who have severe visual motion sensitivity after suffering a concussion, often experience much longer recovery times and more problems.
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Sports Medicine Concussion Program wanted to find out if patients who receive clinical care soon after a concussion can recover faster. They conducted a cross-sectional study involving 162 adolescent and young adult athletes who suffered a concussion. The study was conducted in a sports medicine clinic between August 2016 and March 2018.
Participants were 12 to 22 years old, and had a diagnosed concussion. They were separated into two groups; the early and late groups. The early group consisted of patients who were treated for their concussion within seven days of injury and the late group included patients who were treated between eight to 20 days of injury.
Patients in both groups had similar symptoms of severity, cognitive, ocular and vestibular outcomes at the first clinical visit.
Those who were were treated within the first week of injury had shorter recovery times. Patients who were treated after one but up to three weeks after injury had longer recovery times.
Additionally, patients with severe visual motion sensitivity symptoms also experienced longer recovery times even if they were treated early.
A concussion is a type of mild to severe brain injury often caused by a jolt or blow to the head, like those experienced during sports or car accidents. It can cause cognitive, physical, emotional and sleep-related symptoms and the symptoms can last for days to months, at times persisting even longer.
Emerging research indicates suffering a concussion, even a minor one, can have lasting effects. Concussions suffered during childhood can lead to lower quality of life. Minor concessions suffered at any time can cause a person to suffer from depression or increase their risk of attempting suicide, according to recent studies.
Getting early care after suffering a concussion, whether mild or severe, is crucial, researchers warn. Being treated within one week of a concussion can improve symptoms and reduce recovery times compared to patients who waited longer than one week to get treatment.
While noting more research is needed, study authors emphasized early care is important.
“Findings suggest that earlier initiation of clinical care is associated with faster recovery after concussion,” the researchers wrote. “Other factors may also influence recovery time. Further research is needed to determine the role of active rehabilitation and treatment strategies, as well as demographic factors, medical history, and injury characteristics on the current findings.”