11 May 2016

Athletes who wait to report a concussion may experience longer recovery times and risk further insult to the brain, say neuropsychologists.

Their study of 97 male and female athletes with sport-related concussion found that those who delayed treatment or removal from play missed an average of 5 more days of play than those who immediately reported concussion symptoms.

The works supports previous research that indicates that intense physical activity after concussion can be detrimental.

“We believe exertion or increasing blood flow to the brain when it’s not quite ready to handle that, even in the absence of more impacts to the brain, could also interfere with recovery in this window,” says lead author, Dr Breton Asken, a student in the neuropsychology track of the clinical psychology doctoral program at the University of Florida.

For the study, researchers examined the concussion-related medical history and injury details of 97 male and female athletes between 2008 and 2015. Of those, 50 did not immediately report concussion symptoms.

When controlling for other factors shown to prolong recovery time, the researchers found that athletes who delayed reporting a concussion took an average of 5 days longer to return to play.

“The acute effects of concussion and what it does to the brain are becoming better understood at this point, but in some cases it is still not enough to convince athletes that it is important to report an injury or remove themselves immediately from play,” Asken says.

“What this study might add is context the athlete can relate to, and that is how much time they may miss from their sport.”

Last Reviewed: 11/05/2016