Why many teens are driving too soon after a concussion
Fortunately for kids who play sports (and their parents), schools and athletic leagues are taking concussions much more seriously than they used to. If a child or teen suffers a blow to the head, they’ll often be removed from the field and required to see a doctor to determine for certain whether they suffered a concussion. Of course, kids can suffer concussions and other types of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in car crashes, falls and fights as well.
Early and accurate diagnoses are essential — but so is post-concussion care. Interestingly, while doctors have guidelines on how soon teens can return to school, play sports or even exercise after a concussion, there is little official guidance on how soon it’s safe for them to get behind the wheel of a car.
Study found far more teens are driving before resuming other activities
In one study of over 300 teens, almost half reported that they had resumed driving approximately two weeks after their concussion. However, just 15% said they were exercising again and only 6% reported going back to organized sports.
Perhaps even more concerning is that nearly three-quarters of the teens who were driving again said that their doctors had recommended that they be on “cognitive rest” and/or have special accommodations at school. Cognitive rest (also known as “brain rest”) typically means avoiding activities that require multiple or complex mental processes that require quick reaction time, multitasking and memory. Of course, driving requires all of those.
The study’s lead author concluded, “In the absence of structured recommendations for returning to driving, we believe that young drivers may be getting behind the wheel too soon after their injury.” She noted that “since driving may pose even more risks than exercise or sports, this study makes it clear that evidence-based guidelines are needed.”
If your teen has suffered a concussion, it’s crucial that they don’t get behind the wheel until their brain has had time to heal. Driving is already a relatively new skill for them, so doing it with cognitive or other deficits after a concussion can put them at greater risk of being involved in a crash. If your teen is injured in a crash caused by a negligent or reckless driver, it’s crucial to make sure you get the maximum possible compensation.