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Clear to drive after a concussion? Don't be too sure.

Recent findings from a University of Georgia study indicate a concussion can influence an individual's driving ability for an extensive period of time. The researchers gathered data from participants who had suffered concussions but had reported they were no longer feeling the effects of the injury. 

Although the individuals studied had passed 48 hours without symptoms, the judgment they displayed during a driving simulation revealed that a concussion can impact reasoning and response after a typical recovery time.

According to Julianne Schmidt, the study's lead author, those participating in the study "had less vehicle control while they were doing the driving simulation, and they swerved more within the lane." The damage caused by a concussion can cause individuals to drive as if they were intoxicated, creating what Schmidt calls "a pretty large indicator of motor vehicle accident risk, and this is at a time point when they are considered recovered." The study underscores the reality that temporary mental impairment can be affected by factors beyond alcohol and drugs.

The obvious danger suggested by this study is that individuals get behind the wheel believing they can operate a vehicle safely, when they should not be driving until more time has passed. While the study did not examine the span of time that must pass before individuals could be cleared to drive, those suffering from these symptoms were advised to avoid driving:

  1. Headaches
  2. Mental fogginess or confusion
  3. Dizziness
  4. Sensitivity to sound or light
  5. Feeling of nausea or unexplained shifts in emotion
  6. Difficulty maintaining balance

The NFL has been in the spotlight for its procedures in handling concussions and its care for football players who were repeatedly concussed. Athletes may receive most of the press when the issue of concussions is addressed; however, this type of trauma can occur to anyone. A nasty slip down the stairs can have as much an impact as a hit on the playing field.

Here is the takeaway from the UGA study: after a fall that leaves your brain spinning, consider phoning a friend for a ride to ensure the safety of others on the road.

Individuals who have been injured in a motor vehicle accident are encouraged to contact a knowledgeable attorney to discuss the best course of action to take.

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