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Preexisting Mental Distress Can Slow Concussion Recovery

If psychosomatic symptoms present before injury, it took twice as long for most athletes to improve

THURSDAY, April 21, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Athletes may take longer to recover after a concussion if they had psychosomatic symptoms before their head injury, according to a study published online April 20 in Neurology.

The study included 127 high school and college athletes who had concussions; 80 percent of the athletes were male. About two-thirds of the head injuries occurred during football. About one-quarter of the concussions happened during soccer. The remaining concussions occurred during lacrosse, wrestling, hockey, rugby, and field hockey.

Concussion symptoms lasted an average of five days. But athletes with psychosomatic symptoms prior to their concussion took longer to recover, the researchers found. The majority of those with concussion and previous psychosomatic symptoms recovered within about 20 days. In comparison, most of those with concussion and no previous psychosomatic symptoms got better in about 10 days. The researchers also found that the most significant factor in recovery speed was how serious the concussion symptoms were soon after the injury.

“We found the greatest predictor of recovery after a concussion was the severity of early post-concussion symptoms,” study author Lindsay Nelson, Ph.D., an assistant professor of neurosurgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, said in a journal news release. “But 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.”

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