According to a recent study, the effects of a concussion may linger even after concussion-related symptoms disappear. In fact, the study concludes that drivers who are symptom-free after a recent concussion may still drive similarly to someone driving under the influence of alcohol.
The study, conducted by University of Georgia researchers, compared the driving abilities of individuals with and without a concussion. Specifically, the researchers compared two groups of participants—one group of individuals who had not suffered a concussion, and another group comprised of individuals who had a recent concussion but who were within 48 hours of no longer feeling its side effects.
Despite feeling symptom-free, the participants with a recent concussion were likely to drive erratically in the study’s driving simulator. The researchers noted that these individuals—though symptom free—exhibited less vehicle control, particularly around curves in the simulated road. Based on the study's results, it appears that a concussion may continue to impact a driver’s reasoning and response time, even after the point at which the individual feels completely recovered.
Prior to the study, individuals with a concussion were generally considered safe to drive after their symptoms disappeared. The study, which was the first to look at how a concussion might impact an individual’s ability to drive, calls that assumption into serious question. The study did not determine a point at which a person’s driving abilities might improve after suffering a concussion.
In light of this research, an individual who has suffered a concussion should consult with their doctor about when they should resume normal activities and, in particular, activities such as operating a motor vehicle. Rather than take the unnecessary risk, a driver with a recent concussion should strongly consider getting a ride with a friend, carpooling, or finding another alternative to driving until they are confident that their driving abilities have returned.