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Young athletes take longer to fully recover from concussion

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Children and young people take longer to fully recover from a concussion than previously thought, according to a study published in the Future Science journal Concussion.

After taking time out to recover from a concussion, young athletes usually rejoin their teams in a few weeks if they do not have any active symptoms, Canada´s York University said. But the new study suggests that it can take up to two years to fully recover from the injury before they can play as skilfully as their teammates with no history of concussion.

“Performing motor tasks, guided by what we see, is crucial in skill-based activities such as sports,” explained Professor Lauren Sergio in the Faculty of Health. “But the current return to sport assessment doesn´t test to see if the injured person has regained this ability. Because of this often children and youth who have had a concussion end up returning to normal activities before they are fully recovered. We believe this makes them more vulnerable to another concussion.”

Sergio and colleagues investigated whether cognitive motor integration (CMI) deficits are seen in children and young people who have suffered a concussion in the past. They conducted tests on a dual-touchscreen laptop with 50 children and adolescents with a history of concussion, as well as a control group of 49 who had never had a concussion.

“We noticed significant difficulty in completing the tasks among those with concussion history,” commented Marc Dalecki, postdoctoral candidate and lead author of the study. “In fact, it took many of the children two years after the concussion to have a similar performance on the task as children who did not have a history of concussion.”

The findings indicate that those in the age group of eight to 16 are not only vulnerable to concussions, but because their brain is still developing they are neurologically more fragile than adults for performing tasks that require cognitive motor integration following a concussion, York University said.