(RxWiki News) When an athlete suffers a concussion from a hard hit to the head, it can be difficult to predict how long that concussion will last. It seems several factors may be ruled out when it comes to predicting recovery time.
Athletes' age, gender and whether they had amnesia or lost consciousness when injured were unrelated to how long their concussions lasted, a new study found.
The researchers said that focusing on athletes' initial concussion symptoms could help develop tools to predict whether they will have prolonged recoveries.
"Get checked out promptly for a concussion."
William Meehan, III, MD, and colleagues from Boston Children's Hospital and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center investigated prolonged concussion symptoms in athletes.
The study included 182 athletes being treated at one of two sports concussion clinics between October 2009 and September 2010 within three weeks of getting injured.
Patients were about 15 years old on average and almost two-thirds were male. More than a third of the patients underwent neurocognitive testing on their memory and recall during their first visit.
Athletes who were injured from more severe forces, such as motor vehicle accidents and falls from above ground level, were excluded from the study.
The athletes were divided into two groups based on how long their concussion symptoms lasted. Athletes in the first group had symptoms which lasted less than 28 days and the second group had symptoms which lasted longer than 28 days.
Patients responded to a survey at each visit asking them about 22 different concussion symptoms using a six-point scale. A score of 0 meant no symptoms were present in that category.
The survey, called the Post-Concussion Symptom Scale, covered patients' attention, memory, processing speed and reaction time, and is part of the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 2.
The researchers found that gender, age and amnesia and loss of consciousness at the time of injury were not linked with prolonged concussion symptoms.
Previous treatment for headaches, family history of concussions and a history of migraines were also not linked with prolonged concussion symptoms.
Across all sports included in the study, more athletes had symptoms which lasted less than 28 days than longer than a month.
Scores from the concussion symptom survey were linked with the odds of suffering prolonged symptoms, the researchers found.
"The ability to distinguish between those patients who will likely suffer prolonged symptoms and those who will likely recover more quickly would help patients and clinicians better prepare for prolonged recovery," the researchers wrote in their report.
"Although previous speculation, anecdotal evidence, and previous clinical investigations have suggested many factors as potential predictors of a prolonged recovery from concussion, two in particular have received substantial attention: age and amnesia," the researchers wrote.
The authors noted a few limitations to their study. Not all the patients underwent neurocognitive testing during their first visit to the concussion center.
The researchers also did not calculate the odds that an individual athlete would have a prolonged concussion. Furthermore, they did not measure other factors that could affect how fast an athlete recovered from a concussion.
The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, was published online April 25 in the Journal of Pediatrics.
One of the authors helped develop and co-owns the Immediate Postconcussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) test used in the study. None of the other authors declared any other conflicts of interest.