Nearly half of young drivers resume driving just weeks after a concussion

Researchers from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing(Penn Nursing) found that nearly half of adolescents who sought specialty care for a concussion were back to driving when asked approximately two weeks after the injury, even though few had returned to exercise and sports.

Teen driver looking out the driver’s side window of a car in the rain.

The findings raise important concerns about the need for evidence-based guidance on safely returning to driving for adolescents with concussion. In the absence of standardized guidelines, providers should include driving as part of post-injury discussions with families. The findings were published by the Journal of Adolescent Health.

More than 1.9 million children sustain a concussion each year, with adolescents representing more than 50% of these injuries. Concussions affect cognition and oculomotor function and thus can impair abilities essential to safe driving such as visual scene assessment, processing environmental risks and executing complex tasks.

“We’re looking at this intersection of driving and concussion and see teen drivers returning to what is already a very high-risk behavior for them and doing so with an injury known to cause cognitive impairment,” says first author Catherine McDonald, a senior fellow with CHOP’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention and an associate professor of nursing in the Department of Family and Community Health. “This study sought to provide information on what teens and families are actually doing in the absence of structured clinical guidelines.”

Read more at Penn Nursing News.