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Driving after concussion: is it safe to drive after symptoms resolve?
  1. Julianne D Schmidt1,
  2. Hannes Devos2,
  3. Nicole L Hoffman1,
  4. Maud Ranchet2,
  5. Abiodun E Akinwuntan3,
  6. L Stephen Miller4
  1. 1Department of Kinesiology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA
  2. 2Department of Physical Therapy, Augusta University, Augusta, GA, USA
  3. 3School of Health Professions, University of Kansas Medical Centre, Kansas City, KS, USA
  4. 4Department of Psychology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA

Abstract

Objective To compare simulated driving performance between concussed and control participants.

Design Cross-sectional.

Setting Laboratory.

Subjects Fourteen concussed participants and 14 non-concussed age and driving experience matched controls with no neurological disorders, medications causing drowsiness, or heavy drugs/alcohol use (Age: 20.3years, 95%CI:19.9,20.7).

Intervention Participants completed a 7.6 minute, 20.5km driving simulation task containing curves, crosswalks, accidents, rural/urban areas, pedestrians, overtaking, and evasion. Concussed participants completed driving simulation within 48 hours of becoming asymptomatic (15.9 days post-concussion, 95%CI: 10.7,21.0) and were deemed clinically recovered by a medical professional using a multifaceted concussion evaluation.

Outcome measures We compared total number of accidents, tickets, and lane excursions between groups.We also comparedaverage velocity (km/hr), standard deviation of velocity, lateral lane position (m), and lateral lane position standard deviation throughout simulation subsections. One-way ANOVAs were used (α=0.05).

Results Concussed participants committed more frequent lane excursions compared to controls (concussed: 10.9, 95%CI:8.3,13.5; controls: 7.4, 95%CI:6.0,8.8; p=0.02). Concussed participants exhibited greater lateral lane position standard deviation compared to controls during the first (concussed: 1.1m, 95%CI: 0.8,1.5; controls: 0.7m, 95%CI:0.6, 0.9; p=0.02) and final curve (concussed: 1.2m, 95%CI:1.1,1.3; controls: 1.0m, 95%CI:0.9,1.1; p=0.04).

Conclusions Despite being considered clinically recovered, concussed participants were less able to centre the vehicle in the lane and entered the shoulder more frequently, especially when navigating curves. A concussion may impair visual, motor, and/or cognitive skills necessary to safely drive. Further research is needed to determine when it is safe to return to driving following concussion.

Competing interests None.

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