A new study suggests that athletes that have suffered mental distress could take longer to recover from a head injury.

Psychomatic symptoms that athletes suffer can lead to longer recovery times from a head injury, according to the study. The aches and pains triggered by mental distress are known as psychomatic symptoms, writes Alyssa Navarro for Tech Times.

Mental Distress Head Injury
Photo : Dani Jace | Flickr

Study shows those with psychosomatic symptoms recover more slowly

Researchers led by Lindsay Nelson of Medical College of Wisconsin studied more than 120 high school and college athletes that have suffered concussions. Around 80% of participants were male and almost two-thirds of the concussions were suffered during football games.

Another 25% happened during soccer and the rest occurred while taking part in wrestling, lacrosse, hockey, field hockey and rugby. The majority of participants displayed symptoms of concussion over 5 days, but those that suffered psychosomatic symptoms before the event took longer to recover.

Most of the athletes that displayed psychosomatic symptoms recovered in around 20 days. Those that did not display psychosomatic symptoms recovered in around 10 days.

Further research needed into concussion

The researchers found that the critical factor in determining the speed of recovery was the severity of concussion symptoms after the injury. Athletes who reported serious symptoms such as headaches and problems with balance recovered more slowly than those with less serious signs.

The study was not supposed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship between longer recovery times and psychosomatic stress. However it did find an association between the two.

According to Nelson somatic complaints before the injury was suffered were found to play a role in how badly the athlete suffers the concussion and their ability to report symptoms post-concussion.

Nelson says that the report shows how important psychosomatic symptoms are in terms of recovery times from head injury because the athletes in the study were generally healthy people. “Our hope is our study will lead to further research,” she said.

Nelson said that experts need to identify those athletes who at risk of prolonged recovery in order to develop early interventions and improve care for those that suffer concussion.

Repeated head injury can cause problems

Other studies have shown that athletes who suffer a head injury could suffer reduced blood flow to the brain for up to 8 days after the symptoms of concussion subside. Another piece of research linked head injuries among athletes to higher risk of suicide in later life.

Concussion has become a topic of increasing concern in professional sports. People are particularly worried about football players, who are at high risk from concussion due to the nature of the sport.

Experts have revealed that players in the National Football League suffer an average 8.1 cases of concussion over the course of their entire career. It might seem amazing to the outside observer but the governing body of one of the most popular sports in the United States has only just admitted that it might be putting its players at risk.

The career of an NFL player typically lasts around 3.3 years, according to the NFL Players Association. However before they reach the big leagues players must spend years training in high school and college teams.

It is hardly surprising that people that run into each other for a living are at risk from head injuries. What is surprising is that only recently have scientists begun to demonstrate that it isn’t very good for their health.