Concussions may hinder driving ability after symptoms disappear: study

driving car

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Athens, GA – A concussion may adversely affect a person’s driving ability even after symptoms are gone, according to a new study from the University of Georgia.

For the study, 14 participants who were 48 hours free of concussion symptoms completed a symptom checklist, a neuropsychological exam and an approximately 13-mile driving test using a simulator. Researchers compared the number of crashes, tickets and lane detours – as well as changes in “standard deviation of lateral position” and speed – against the results of 14 participants who had not suffered a concussion.

Recently concussed participants were more likely to drive haphazardly – sometimes similar to driving under the influence of alcohol, according to a university press release. They also had less control of the vehicle and veered more within the lane, indicating risk for a motor vehicle crash, the researchers said.

The researchers concluded that driving impairments may linger after people with concussions have resumed driving, and that time behind the wheel should be limited until after concussion symptoms resolve – and possibly after that.

“The driving simulation shows they are performing very differently on the road compared to people who are not concussed, even after such symptoms resolve,” Julianne Schmidt, associate professor in the university’s College of Education’s department of kinesiology and lead study author, said in a press release.

“We have very fine-tuned recommendations for when a concussed individual is ready to return to sport and the classroom, but we don’t even mention driving in our recommendations. And only 50 percent of people intend to restrict their driving at any point following a concussion – which means that by the time they are feeling better, they are almost certainly on the road.”

The study was published in the January issue of Journal of Neurotrauma.

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