106 Concussion Recovery & Prior Concussion

Based on research by Tracey Covassin et al, 2008. Written by Kyle Piecora, M.S.

If you have already had a concussion, are you more susceptible to cognitive deficits after another?

Psychologist Tracey Covassin and colleagues administered a commonly used concussion assessment tool called ImPACT, or Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing to collegiate athletes. This computer test measures attention, verbal and visual memory, processing speed, reaction time, learning, and numerical sequencing abilities. All athletes were tested with these instruments pre-season. During the sports seasons, 57 athletes got concussions. About one-third had a history of 2 or more concussions. The ImPACT test was administered to all on both 1 and 5 days after their injury. Athletes with a history of concussion did not have a greater likelihood of sustaining a more severe concussion. However, athletes with a concussion history were significantly worse in verbal memory and reaction time on day 5 when compared to athletes with no concussion history.

Neurocognitive testing is a valuable tool to use in conjunction with reported symptoms. Coaches, doctors and athletes can increase their accuracy in making safe return-to-play decisions. Athletes should return to play only if symptom free and neurocognitive test scores return to baseline. Recovery may take longer if the athlete has had a prior concussion.


Covassin, T., Stearne, D., & Elbin III, R.  Concussion history and postconcussion neurocognitive
performance and symptoms in collegiate athletes. Journal of Athletic Training, 43(2), 119-124.
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