We often hear of an athlete sustaining a concussion; a football player, for example. After a week of recovery, he may feel fine and be back on the field. What about a motorist who has apparently recovered from a concussion? The findings of a study conducted at the University of Georgia reveal a different outcome.
About the study
An associate professor at the UGA Department of Kinesiology was the leader of a 2017 study about the effects of a concussion on the driver of a vehicle. The 14 college-age participants in the study had suffered concussions, but all were within 48 hours of what they felt was total recovery; that is, they no longer experienced any symptoms of a head injury.
The participants tested using a driving simulator. Professor Julianne Schmidt observed that despite feeling that they had recovered from their concussions, they drove erratically, weaving within their traffic lanes like drivers under the influence of alcohol. The testing showed that a motor vehicle accident risk was present.
The signs of a concussion may not appear right away. Common symptoms include a headache, a feeling of confusion, dizziness and nausea. There may be concentration or memory issues, irritability, sensitivity to light or problems sleeping. A possible concussion is one example of the need for prompt medical assistance even after a minor car crash because a medical evaluation can detect underlying issues.
Professor Schmidt noted that UGA places no driving restrictions on athletes who suffer concussions. However, they must pass a series of tests designed to check brain function before receiving approval to play again. The university study brings up the question of whether restrictions should apply to ordinary drivers to ensure that they are completely recovered from a concussion before getting behind the wheel. The next step for the UGA research team is more testing to determine when post-concussion driving skills actually improve.