By Logan Smith

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) — A year-long study conducted by Children’s Hospital Colorado has concluded that additional post-concussion motor skill and cognitive therapy for young athletes reduced their chances of injuring their arms or legs after their head injury.

The study and its results were published Friday in The American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Athletes who received sports-related concussions were divided into two groups by researchers at the hospital’s Sports Medicine Center. Testing began after the athletes were symptom-free and cleared to return to competition.

One group of athletes was allowed to return to competition immediately.

But the other group was held back. The athletes in this group underwent eight weeks of neuromuscular training which included core strength, multi-tasking and motor-skill exercises designed to address balance, posture, attention, and orientation.

(credit: Maurico Lima/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Exactly three-fourths of those athletes who immediately returned to competition suffered at least one additional injury that cost them time away from their sport during the following year.

Of the group that went through the additional training, 36 percent were injured.

“It is important to understand that a concussion is a brain injury, but it is one that athletes can recover from. However, prior research indicates athletes who are cleared after a concussion have a greater risk of subsequent sports-related injuries such as ACL tears or sprained ankles than those without a concussion,” said Dr. David R. Howell, lead researcher at the Sports Medicine Center. “We want to understand the risks and potential ways to mitigate risks so kids can get back to safely doing the things they love.”

The same research team had earlier found “post-concussion deficits” measurably demonstrated when athletes were tested on motor skills combined with cognitive exercises. They also found that those deficits may take longer to resolve than concussion symptoms. This latest study adds weight to the idea that those deficits also contribute to a higher injury risk after a concussion.

“An injury to the brain impacts many different parts of the body and the severity is hard to judge,” Howell said. “The brain is the core of who you are – it touches all facets of your life and has many different effects on individuals. Each athlete is on a recovery spectrum post-concussion, so we need to understand what interventions or treatments might work best for each individual.”

(credit: CBS)

“The clinical takeaway from this study was that a relatively simple and progressive intervention performed twice per week under guidance of an athletic trainer can help keep athletes safe during a time after concussion where they may be potentially vulnerable to further injuries.”

This was part one of a two-part study. Howell’s team next hopes to learn whether this additional therapy can be successfully accessed via smartphone or telehealth by those concussed athletes who are not in a position to receive in-person instruction.

 

Logan Smith