Symptoms of a concussion may be fleeting, but a new University of Kentucky study suggests deeper physiological problems may continue for a long time after the injury.
Concussions are typically diagnosed and monitored through a patient's self-reported symptoms – such as headache, confusion or disorientation, poor concentration and memory loss – and standard tests for mental functions.
For most patients, symptoms go away after five to 10 days following the injury.
But the new study, led by Kentucky's Scott Livingston, that compared nine college athletes who had experience concussions with nine non-injured athletes found significant physiological changes persisted for the injured athletes, even after their symptoms went away.
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology, used high-tech medical tests to identify changes in brain function to identify the lasting physiological abnormalities.
Livingston said the findings are significant for both athletes and sports medicine clinicians.
"Further investigation … is needed, especially to assess how long the disturbances in physiological functioning continue after those initial 10 days post-injury," he said. "But in the meantime, sports medicine personnel caring for concussed athletes should be cautious about relying solely on self-reported symptoms and neurocognitive test performances when making return-to-play decisions."