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A concussion doesn't have to be a knockout, researchers say

August 11, 2003|Dianne Partie Lange

Being knocked out is a sure sign that you've suffered a severe concussion, but in recent years some experts have come to believe that loss of consciousness doesn't have to occur for the brain's function to be seriously disrupted, which is what happens in a concussion. Now researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center seem to have proved it.

Using a computerized testing system, the researchers assessed reaction time, memory and mental processing speed of 160 high school and college athletes 24 to 48 hours after they sustained a concussion. The results of 26 who had lost consciousness and 124 who hadn't were no different, indicating that the disruption of brain function was similar.

"There's a general consensus among sports medicine doctors that amnesia is just as important as loss of consciousness, but this is one of the first studies to confirm that is so. Some of the most severe injuries can occur without the person being knocked out," says Mark Lovell, lead author of the study and director of the sports concussion program at the University of Pittsburgh.

The research was presented in July at the meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine.

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-- Dianne Partie Lange

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