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Concussion – How Long Does It Really Take to Recover?

June 27, 2023

Written by Ketan Patel

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Post-concussion return to functional baseline occurs early for symptoms, balance, and mental status along with partial neurocognitive functioning. Visual-memory and reaction-time recovery, however, lag behind the other groups post-concussion.

Why does this matter?
A variety of tests are utilized in the post-concussive period to gauge an athlete’s improvement of function and readiness for return to play. This is the first study to look at the rate of recovery across various tests and the domains they test.

Uniform recovery for the most part
The authors in this study utilized the Concussion Assessment, Research, and Education (CARE) study to analyze recovery times across various domains. A total of 2,842 athletes with concussions who had had baseline testing across various tests were included in their study group after sustaining concussions.

Various tests were utilized to assess recovery across a variety of domains. The various domains of recovery studied included symptoms, balance, mental status, neurocognitive functions, visual-memory and reaction-time. The supplementary appendix summarized the common tests utilized to analyze the various domains in concussion care and recovery.

They applied these data and created recovery curves for each assessment, looking at the return to the mean baseline level of function for each group. In their analysis, they found that most assessments returned to baseline around the 2 to 7-day mark. Visual-memory and reaction-time recovery, however, lagged behind the others at 14 and 18 days respectively.

While this study does start to quantify the recovery times across various concussion related symptoms utilizing commonly used assessments, the authors acknowledge that application to individual athletes is challenging and not uniform, given the variability in the data.

Concussion care and return to normal function is complex and layered. A multimodal and well rounded approach to the individual athlete should be utilized, and recovery across various assessments is not an all or none phenomenon in terms of time to improvement.

Source
Time to Recovery as Measured on Clinical Assessments after Sport-Related Concussion. N Engl J Med. 2023 May 4;388(18):1717-1719. doi: 10.1056/NEJMc2301706.

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