Concussions Can Affect Driving Performance Even After Symptoms are Gone

Concussions Can Affect Driving Performance Even After Symptoms are Gone

The prevalence and consequences of concussions in professional American football have been all over the news in recent months. Thousands of lawsuits have been filed, alleging that the NFL knew about the risks of repeated concussions but hid that knowledge in order to get players back on the field faster. Currently, a settlement has been approved that could result in the NFL paying $1 billion over 65 years. Athletes across many sports and all skill levels are indeed susceptible to concussions, but they aren’t the only ones. Suffering a concussion in a vehicle accident is extremely likely and can stem from even a minor fender-bender. Falls are also a common cause of brain injury.

Damage to the brain is not always immediately obvious. Because there are no visible physical signs such as blood or a broken bone, people often shrug off bumps to the head that should be taken seriously. Whether instant or delayed, symptoms of concussions can include headaches, blurry vision, dizziness, fatigue, irritability, or problems with concentration, memory, reflexes, or coordination. A recent study by the University of Georgia discovered that even when symptoms are gone and people feel their health has been restored, concussions can impact their ability to drive.

The researchers used a simulator to establish that participants drove erratically in ways similar to intoxicated drivers, despite feeling as if they had fully recuperated from their concussions. They exhibited poorer vehicle control than those without concussion injuries, especially when navigating curves. According to the study’s lead author, the subjects “had less vehicle control while they were doing the driving simulation, and they swerved more within the lane. This is a pretty large indicator of motor vehicle accident risk, and this is at a time point when they are considered recovered.”

This is a troubling finding, because not many people who suffer a concussion choose to restrict their driving, believing either that it was mild or has healed. Operating a vehicle is a difficult task that requires physical and mental skill. To perform differently than people who have not experienced a concussion – and to not even realize it – is a dangerous situation. Being in control of a large machine that can travel fast poses more threat than playing a sport, yet only one of those activities has specific recommendations for when a concussed individual can safely return.

Based on the conclusion that concussion effects can outlast symptoms and driving after a concussion is risky, the researchers are now seeking more precise answers as to when driving abilities improve after a concussion. They are also considering drafting guidelines for deciding when a driver should be restricted.

If you or someone you love has received a concussion, or if you have more questions about this topic, trust your case to the Macon, GA-based Mann Law Firm. We serve all of Middle Georgia, including Dublin, Warner Robins and Milledgeville. We understand the potential complexities that a brain injury can involve and we offer a free, no-obligation consultation. Contact us for a thorough case evaluation by calling 888-369-1915 or by filling out our online form.