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A concussion with loss of consciousness may increase the risk for disability later in life: study

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Philadelphia — People who have suffered a concussion and lost consciousness may be at increased risk for disability or limitations later in life, according to a recent study by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University.

The researchers analyzed 2011-2014 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which involved nearly 7,400 adults with a mean age of 58. Respondents were asked if they had ever had a concussion and lost consciousness, as well as about their ability to take part in daily activities such as eating, preparing meals, dressing themselves, completing household chores, carrying heavy objects or walking up stairs. The respondents also answered questions about any physical, mental or emotional issues that prohibited them from working or limited their work.

Around 16% of the respondents reported having suffered a concussion with loss of consciousness and, of them, 47% had some disability in at least one area of function. That percentage was 37 among the respondents who hadn’t suffered a concussion.

Regarding impaired abilities, 38% of the former group said they have difficulty with mobility, such as walking up 10 steps or standing up from an armless chair; around 36% reported having at least some difficulty with general physical activities such as standing for long periods or carrying heavy objects; and about 35% indicated they’re limited in the type or amount of work they can perform.


“This substantial burden of disability suggests that research into how to better care for and improve the functioning of people with concussions over the long term should be a priority for both public health and for planning for individuals,” study author Andrea L.C. Schneider, an assistant professor of neurology at Penn and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, said in an AAN press release. “And it’s possible that this is an underestimation, as the study did not include people in the military, nursing facilities or prisons who may have be more likely to experience concussions and disability.”

The study was published online May 26 in the AAN journal Neurology.

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