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Time to recovery after sports-related concussions

...how long does it take?

The Concussion in Sports Group (CISG) has until recently stressed the importance of cognitive and physical rest until symptoms fully resolve following a mild concussion, and reported that in most people this occurs between 7-10 days.

However, this advice regarding rest has recently been subject to debate, as there is only limited evidence supporting the short times to recovery that are commonly described in position statements.

This two-year prospective study investigated the length of clinical recovery, sought to identify factors that may be associated with slowing recovery, and determined if the majority of concussions indeed resolved within two weeks as stated before.

It was found that on average, the initial consultation took place 8.7 days following the injury. There were no significant differences across age groups in terms of days until assessment. Only 45 percent of all participants had recovered within two weeks following the injury. This increased to 77 percent at four weeks, and to 94 percent at eight weeks. 

This study highlights that less than half of those presenting acutely following a SR-mTBI actually recover within two weeks. This rate of recovery is slower than what was commonly stated before.

Outside of sports populations, there is data supporting an even longer recovery time. This study also found that age was not a significant factor in the recovery time either. Therefore it  supports a more conservative approach to concussion treatment across all age groups.

> From: Kara et al., Clin J Sport Med 30 (2020) 96-101 . All rights reserved to Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Click here for the online summary.

SCAT5

The SCAT5 is a standardised tool to evaluate concussions. You can find more information about it here.

 

Expert opinion

This study highlights the importance of a prompt assessment and further quantification of symptoms at the initial assessment and monitoring ongoing symptoms.

It also supports the theory that normal concussion resolution often takes longer than previously thought – this should be taken into account in clinical decision making regarding recovery after concussion and return to sports activities.

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