Earlier Intervention After Concussion Linked to Faster Recovery

January 14, 2020
Sue Hughes-Medscape

Earlier initiation of clinical care after a concussion was associated with faster recovery in a new study.

Athletes who presented for evaluation within the first week after injury recovered faster than athletes who initially presented 2 to 3 weeks post injury.

“Our results show that following a concussion, patients should seek specialty care involving a comprehensive assessment and clinical exam that allows for more targeted treatments for specific symptoms and impairments as early as possible,” lead author Anthony P. Kontos, PhD, told Medscape Medical News.

Kontos, who is research director of UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, University of Pittsburgh, added: “Earlier care with a trained clinician allows patients to begin behavioral management strategies involving physical and cognitive activity, sleep, nutrition, hydration, and stress management, all of which can enhance the recovery process. Patients should not wait for a week or more to seek care to see if things improve on their own; rather, they should seek care as soon as they can to enhance their recovery process.”

The study was published online January 6 in JAMA Neurology.

The researchers note that most athletes who experience a concussion do not receive care beyond an initial evaluation or diagnosis at or near the time of injury and that this may result in prolonged time to recovery.

There has been general reticence among clinicians who treat patients with concussion to engage in earlier active intervention because of perceptions that it may result in a prolonged recovery, but recent research suggests that provision of care in the first few days after a concussion, especially active interventions that target specific symptoms and impairments, may play a pivotal role in influencing recovery, the researchers say.

For the current retrospective, cross-sectional study, Kontos and colleagues analyzed data on 162 young people who experienced a concussion while playing organized or recreational sports and who received treatment at a sports medicine concussion clinic.

They compared time to recovery in the 98 patients seen within the first 7 days post injury (the early group) with 64 patients seen within 8 to 20 days post injury (the late group).

The early and late groups did not differ in age (mean, 15.3 years vs 15.4 years); number of female patients (early, 52.0%; late, 62.5%), or other demographic, medical history, or injury factors. The groups were also similar with respect to symptom severity, as well as cognitive, ocular, and vestibular outcomes at the first clinic visit.

Results from a logistical regression indicated that recovery time was increased for patients in the late-treatment group (adjusted odds ratio, 5.8). Having a score >2 on an assessment of visual motion sensitivity was also associated with increased recovery time (adjusted odds ratio, 4.5).

“We found that early access to clinical care was associated with an almost six times increased likelihood of a recovery within 30 days,” Kontos said.

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