Authors: Alice Weatherston
New research from the Medical College of Wisconsin (WI, USA) has revealed that athletes that report minor medical complaints with no discernible cause, such as aches and pains, may exhibit longer recovery times following a concussion event. The findings were published this week in Neurology.
The study involved 2055 high school and college athletes that were all evaluated prior to the beginning of the season for balance, thinking, memory skills and psychological problems such as depression and anxiety. They also reviewed any signs of psychosomatic problems such as faintness or dizzyness, nausea, upset stomach or chest or heart pains. All participants were required to rank these psychosomatic problems according to how often they had experienced them during the preceding week.
The preseason evaluations revealed that approximately 50% of participants had at least one symptom, with the others experiencing none.
Throughout the season a total of 127 athletes suffered a concussion. These athletes were reassessed following diagnosis within the first 24 hours of injury and again followed-up at 8, 15, and 45 days post-injury. The concussed athletes came from a range of sports including American football (61%), soccer (24%), lacrosse (6%), wrestling (3%), hockey (3%) and rugby (2%).
Concussion symptoms were shown to last, on average, 5 days, with 64% stating no symptoms after one week and 95% after one month. Athletes that had previously reported psychosomatic symptoms however demonstrated longer recovery times than those that had not previously complained of psychosomatic symptoms. To reach 80% recovery in each of the cohorts it took 20 days and 10 days in the psychosomatic symptom group and no psychosomatic symptom group, respectively.
Study author Lindsay Nelson (Medical College of Wisconsin) explained the results: “We found the greatest predictor of recovery after a concussion was the severity of early post-concussion symptoms. But somatic complaints before injury also play an important role, either by possibly enhancing how a person experiences the injury or affecting their reporting of post-concussive symptoms.”
“That these athletes were relatively healthy physically and psychologically highlights the relevance of psychosomatic symptoms and the role they play in recovery even in healthy people,” she added. The team now hope that these results will spark further research into identifying individuals at increased risk of prolonged recovery following concussion, helping to develop effective early interventions.