A University of Buffalo (UB) study suggests that many of the symptoms common to concussions are similar to those seen in injuries to the neck and/or balance system, making diagnosis more challenging. A university news release reports that the research yields from responses about symptoms from 128 patients—including some professional athletes—who were being treated at UB’s Concussion Management Clinic in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The study appears in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine

John J. Leddy, MD, senior author and clinical professor in the UB Department of Orthopaedics, explains that based upon the study’s results, “we conclude that some patients who have been told they’ve suffered a concussion, and whose symptoms persist for several months may actually have suffered a neck injury, rather than a concussion, or in addition to a concussion.”

According to the release, the study’s primary goal centered on pinpointing how to distinguish between concussion injury and neck injury, based upon symptoms. In order to determine which of the respondents had likely sustained a concussion and which were more likely to have had a neck injury, UB researchers reportedly used the graded treadmill test, developed by Leddy and co-author Barry Willer, PhD, UB professor of psychiatry.

Leddy notes that the treadmill test is designed to allow researchers to make a first delineation between “physiologic concussion” and other possible causes of cognitive symptoms.

Leddy adds that since concussion is a brain injury, initially researchers thought cognitive symptoms would be more likely linked to concussions.

However, “that didn’t turn out to be the case. People who have had neck injuries can also have problems with concentration and with memory. They feel like they’re in a fog, which is exactly what people report after concussion,” Leddy says.

The release notes that symptoms reported by both groups were headache, dizziness, blurred vision, poor concentration, and memory deficits. During the study, patients from both groups filled out a questionnaire regarding their symptoms. The responses were then correlated to their treadmill test results.

Leddy states that even after analysis, there was “really no way to separate out the two groups based on their symptom patterns alone.”

Leddy goes on to call for additional research on larger samples concerning concussion and neck injury, and recommends that patients who believe they have sustained a concussion and whose symptoms have not diminished after several months be examined for neck and vestibular injury.

Source(s): Newswise, University at Buffalo