Some patients diagnosed with concussions actually suffer from neck injuries that cause similar symptoms, highlighting the importance of distinguishing between the two problems, a University at Buffalo study shows.
Determining which condition a patient has experienced is critical, the study authors said, because the treatments are different.
“The treatment for a neck injury is actually to be more active, to do physical and vestibular therapy, to have a more active intervention, whereas after a concussion, exercise must begin slowly and incrementally after a period of rest,” said Dr. John J. Leddy, clinical professor in the UB Department of Orthopaedics and senior author.
The research in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine was based on 128 patients treated at UB’s Concussion Management Clinic.
Symptoms reported by both groups included headache, dizziness, blurred vision, poor concentration and memory deficits. To determine which patients had probably sustained a concussion and which more likely had a neck injury, the researchers used a graded treadmill test developed by Leddy and co-author Barry Willer, UB professor of psychiatry.
“Because a concussion is a brain injury, we thought that cognitive symptoms would be more likely associated with concussions,” Leddy said. “Surprisingly, 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.”