The study, which appears in the March issue of the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, used injured athletes to chart the course of emotional recovery after a concussion. The researchers found that concussed athletes were not emotionally different from their peers before injury, but were more depressed and confused than their uninjured teammates after sustaining a concussion.
"Our results support a causal link between sports injury and subsequent emotional distress," says Lynda Mainwaring, a registered psychologist and associate professor in U of T's Faculty of Physical Education and Health. "Moreover, it highlights emotional changes that result from brain injury, which may help us determine when people are completely healed from a concussion." She notes that there has been little research into the emotional impact of concussions and subsequent recovery.
Three groups were used in the study - concussed athletes, uninjured teammates of the concussed athletes and healthy, physically active undergraduate students. Baseline mood state for athletes (members of U of T Varsity sports teams) was measured during a pre-season medical and neurological assessment. Those athletes who suffered a concussion during the season were then repeatedly reassessed in the weeks after injury.
The study found that the depression, confusion and total mood disturbance that resulted from the concussion disappeared within three weeks. There were also different rates of decrease for each emotion depression resolved in approximately seven days while confusion and total mood disturbance took 17 to 21 days. Post-injury mood disturbances were not a result of the injured athlete's pre-injury emotional state.