A new study published by University at Buffalo (UB) medical faculty reveals that many of the same symptoms common to concussions are similar to injuries to the neck and/or balance system, which may make concussion diagnosis challenging. The research was based on responses about symptoms from 128 patients who were being treated at UB’s Concussion Management Clinic in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. According to a Science Daily news report, the aim of the study was to determine how to distinguish between concussion injury and neck injury.

In order to determine which of the respondents had likely sustained a concussion and not a neck injury, the researchers used the graded treadmill test developed by John J. Leddy, MD, and co-author Barry Willer, PhD. Leddy explains, “The treadmill test helps us make a first delineation between what I call physiologic concussion and other possible causes of cognitive symptoms.” Symptoms reported by both groups included blurred vision, headache, dizziness, poor concentration, and memory deficits.

Patients in both groups completed a detailed questionnaire concerning their symptoms, and the responses were then correlated to their treadmill test results. Following a data analysis, Leddy says, “Even when we looked at the data in multiple ways, there was really no way to separate out the two groups based on their symptom patterns alone.” Leddy adds that determining which condition a patient has experienced is critical because courses of treatment are very different.

The Science Daily news report notes that Leddy believes more research should be done on larger samples concerning concussion and neck injury. In the meantime, Leddy says patients who think they have had a concussion and whose symptoms do not diminish after several months should instead be examined for neck and vestibular injury by a sports medicine physician, a specialist in rehabilitation medicine, neurologist, or a physiatrist.

Leddy states, “I think a lot of practitioners listen to the symptoms and just chalk it up to concussion but if they also examined the neck in these people, they might discover that a neck injury is involved and that’s a treatable problem.”

Sources: Science Daily, University at Buffalo