Factors in concussion recovery in physically active university students


Introduction: Concussions are serious brain injuries that may result in a variety of debilitating physiological, psychological, and social consequences. University can be an especially stressful experience, to which an injury may add further psychological distress. Non-varsity students may even be at increased risk of adverse psychological consequences, as they are less likely to have access to resources to which varsity athletes have access. The aim of this study was to gain a better understanding of the factors in concussion recovery experiences in non-varsity students to improve management programs targeted to them. Methods: Semi-structured interviews and questionnaires. Participants: 19 (11 females, 8 males) non-varsity physically active university students (recreational sport or physical activity). Results: Using a modified thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006), ten key themes were identified among the student experiences: social support from family or friends, academic accommodations, uncertainty (related to understanding the injury and time-to-recovery), control, perceived lack of education, isolation, emotional symptoms (anxiety/depressive symptoms), acceptance, fear, and the invisible injury. Males were less forthcoming regarding psychological impacts during recovery than females (i.e., required multiple follow-up questions to explore these factors). While not a theme itself, exercise was identified as a common facilitator of recovery. Conclusion: It is imperative to create or adjust existing concussion management programs at the post-secondary level to meet the needs of injured students. Providing social support, education on expectations and for peers or family, and clear processes to access academic accommodations may all play important roles in improving recovery experiences in concussed students.

Acknowledgments: We acknowledge the participants who dedicated their time to improving concussion management as well as the MacIntosh Sport Medicine Clinic and Health & Wellness at the University of Toronto, St. George