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Getting enough sleep could affect concussion test accuracy

Filed in
  • poor sleep
  • sleep length

By Lynn Celmer  |  Jul 17, 2013
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Getting enough sleep could affect concussion test accuracy

August will be here in a couple of weeks and you know what that means — the start of both high school and college football seasons. And along with football season comes the increased risk of getting a concussion. A new study out of Vanderbilt University found that athletes who didn’t get enough sleep the night before undergoing baseline concussion testing didn’t perform as well as expected.

"Our results indicate athletes sleeping less than 7 hours the night prior to baseline concussion testing did not do as well on 3 out of 4 ImPACT scores and showed more symptoms," said lead author, Jake McClure, MD from Vanderbilt University. "Because return-to-play decisions often hinge on the comparison of post-concussion to baseline concussion scores, our research indicates that healthcare providers should consider the sleep duration prior to baseline neurocognitive testing as a potential factor in assessing recovery."

Researchers reviewed 3,686 non-concussed athletes — 2,371 male, 1,315 female, 3,305 high school and 381 college-aged individuals — with baseline symptom and ImPACT neurocognitive scores. Individuals were stratified into three groups based on self-reported sleep duration the night before testing: fewer than 7 hours, 7-9 hours and greater than 9 hours. Significant differences in Reaction Time, Verbal Memory and Visual Memory scores were all noted in the group sleeping less than 7 hours. However, Visual-motor (processing) Speed scores did not seem to be affected. Also, significant differences in the total number of reported symptoms were associated with sleeping fewer than 7 hours.

"Understanding factors which modify baseline testing, potentially including sleep, will continue to help lead to more accurate concussion testing, which ultimately equips clinicians with the best judgment to avoid returning athletes to competition earlier than necessary," said McClure.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these are some of the signs and symptoms of a concussion:

• Difficulty thinking clearly

• Feeling slowed down

• Difficulty concentrating

• Headache and fuzzy or blurry vision

•Nausea or vomiting (early on) and dizziness

•Sensitivity to noise or light and balance problems

•Feeling tired, having no energy

•Irritability or sadness

•Nervousness or anxiety

•Sleeping more or less than usual or trouble falling asleep


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