Research Study: The Signs of Driving Difficulty in People with Concussion (2017)

Around 20,000 Australians are hospitalised each year with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Most TBIs are termed “mild”. However as many as 1 in every 5 people with “mild” TBI don’t fully recover within the expected 2 or 3 months. Following the success of Brain Injury Australia’s public awareness campaigning on concussion, it will now focus on reaching out to the unknown number of Australians living with post-concussion syndrome and “mild” TBI.

The disabilities associated with post-concussion syndrome or “mild” TBI include problems with thinking, behaviour, and movement which may impact your ability to drive. In her study, Assistant Professor Julienne Schmidt and colleagues from the University of Georgia in the United States asked 14 people with concussion and 14 without concussion to complete driving simulation tasks and a variety of psychological tests. The researchers found that drivers with concussion showed poorer vehicle control, especially when navigating curves, and drifted out of their lane more frequently compared with drivers without concussion.

The study shows that disability in driving may continue when people with a concussion have returned to driving, and memory, estimation of speed, and reading single digit road signs can be used to assess driving performance after a concussion.

These findings are consistent with this recent Australian study, downloadable here.

Driving lessons, followed by a reassessment and the use of restricted licenses may help achieve successful, and safe, return to driving for people with post-concussion syndrome or “mild” TBI. Download Professor Schmidt’s abstract here.

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