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Study Shows Driving is Affected Even After Concussion Symptoms Are Gone

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A concussion can impair a person's driving ability after all the symptoms have resolved, according to a study conducted at the University of Georgia's College of education.

Participants in the study were tested using a driving simulator. Researchers found that many participants tended to drive erratically despite feeling that they were completely recovered from their concussions. In some cases, the participants drove as if they were under the influence of alcohol.

Concussion Patients Should Refrain from Driving

This is the first study to closely observe the way a concussion affects a person's ability to drive. Published in the journal Neurotrauma, the study involved 14 participants, all of college age. Each one of the subjects had suffered a concussion and had been asymptomatic for less than 48 hours.

Julianne Schmidt, associate professor at the UGA, and the lead author of the study, stated that concussion research generally addresses the effects of the injuries on athletes. Before players who suffered a concussion can return to playing, they must go through a series of tests that evaluate their brains functions.

"Post-concussion impairments may result in unsafe driving performance, but little research is available to guide consensus on when concussed individuals should return to driving," the research noted. "The purpose of this study was to compare driving performance between individuals with and without a concussion and to explore relationships between neuropsychological and driving performance."

Medical Professionals Must Consider the Danger

Previous studies have failed to question a concussion victim's ability to drive home from the hospital safely. Driving under this condition can be very dangerous. What are the legal ramifications should the post- concussive impaired driver be involved in a serious accident? Unlike a person who knows how much they have had to drink; the post-concussive driver relies on the advice of medical professionals. Like a bartender who serves an obviously impaired individual, will a doctor or nurse be held legally responsible, in the future, for allowing the impaired driver to get behind the wheel? The same injury that prevents a player from returning to play, protects that player from further injury. Not allowing the impaired driver to drive also protects the public.

"The driving simulation shows that they are performing very differently on the road compared to those not concussed, even after such symptoms resolve," Schmidt said.

Despite the research, little is known about exactly when the actual time comes when post-concussive driving abilities return to normal levels. This question will be addressed with future research and guidelines will be developed to help determine the situations in which driving restrictions should apply for medical reasons.

The Common Causes of Concussion

In 2010, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) sent approximately 2.5 million people to the emergency room nationwide. Per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), TBI's have been the annual cause of death for over 50,000 people.

Concussions are a comparatively mild form of TBI, but they can still have negative effects on people's abilities to perform different tasks. 248,000 children, aged 19 or younger, were treated for sports or recreation related injuries that included concussions as part of the diagnoses in 2009.

Falls accounted for 40% of the total number of TBIs while 14% were motor vehicle related and 10% were the result of assault.

Vititoe Law Group is a personal injury law firm dedicated to helping victims of traumatic brain injuries. If you or a loved one were injured please call 818-851-1886 for a free consultation. No recovery, no fee.

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