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Prior Psychosomatic Symptoms Affect Concussion Recovery in Athletes

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Athletes who have previously suffered from mental distress symptoms may find it longer to heal from new head injuries or concussions, recent studies suggest.

In a new research published in the online journal Neurology, the authors studied how prior psychosomatic symptoms affected the recovery of more recent concussions. The study recruited 127 high school and college athletes, 80% of which were male. Around 66% of the injuries were sustained during football, with the rest from soccer, lacrosse, wrestling, rugby, hockey and field hockey.

The symptoms relating to said head injuries lasted for an average of five days. The athletes with no prior psychosomatic symptoms recovered in an average of 10 days. However, the athletes with previous records of mental distress took twice as long, recovering in about 20 days.

Researchers found that the degree of severity of the athletes’ concussions proved to be a contributing factor to the study. Those with more serious symptoms took more time to heal. One of the researchers, Lindsay Nelson, an assistant professor of neurosurgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin, says, “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.”

This means that while athletes are generally physically fit and psychologically healthy, the study’s findings are important in identifying how such previous psychosomatic symptoms can affect their future recovery. Perhaps further down the road, the study can help improve how athletes – and people in general – cope with these symptoms. Nelson further states:

Our hope is our study will lead to further research, because identifying those at risk for prolonged recovery is critical to developing early interventions that improve outcomes for people who suffer concussions.

While the link between these prior symptoms and recovery time was proven, the study nonetheless was not designed to directly prove cause and effect.

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