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New Research Highlights Concussion’s Impact on Driving Performance

When you think concussions, you probably think football. The connection between head injuries and our nation’s favorite game has been a hot topic in recent years. But by limiting the scope of how we see concussions – both how we suffer them and how they impact our lives – we threaten to undermine our own health and safety.

A growing body of research tells us the many ways that concussions can impact the long-term health of a sufferer. Concussions, especially if you sustain several of them, can impact one’s decision-making process, ability to process language and mental health. But concussions also have several short-term consequences.

Impact on Driving Performance

In the hours and days following a concussion, a victim might experience several side effects. Confusion, difficulty focusing, dizziness, nausea – these are just a few of the warning signs that somebody has suffered a concussion. Doctors typically warn people to expect these effects in the first 48 hours after the impact, but a recent study from researchers at the University of Georgia have found that those effects could last much longer.

The UGA researchers found that even after that 48-hour window, even after participants in the study claimed that they no longer felt the effects of their concussion, their driving was impaired, like that of a drunk driver. This finding is important for two reasons. First, a concussed person is likely not a reliable judge of when they can perform tasks at an acceptable level. Second, after someone suffers a head injury, they could pose a serious threat to other drivers.

Lessons From NASCAR

To consider the potential impact of a concussion on a driver’s performance, let’s turn back to the world of professional sports. NASCAR has recently taken precautions to identify the occurrence of concussions among drivers in order to make everyone safer on the racetrack. The steps come after it was discovered that Dale Earnhardt, Jr., one of the most popular figures in the sport, raced for a full three weeks after a crash in June 2016, even though he had a concussion.

Earnhardt didn’t realize he had a concussion at the time. He said he thought it was a sinus infection, but after a doctor diagnosed the concussion, he didn’t race again for several months. What NASCAR is finally acknowledging through their actions, is that concussed individuals pose a threat to people they share the road with.

It’s good that professional athletes are screened for these head injuries, but it’s important for the rest of to realize that we are all susceptible to decreased cognitive performance after a concussion. Concussions aren’t always properly diagnosed, and there’s no law forbidding a person from driving after a concussion.

Until we find better ways of diagnosing and treating people following a concussion, we must do our part in making smart decisions. If you have suffered a head injury or if you believe your loved one has suffered a concussion, it is imperative that you take a break from driving for a significant length of time. As the study from UGA points out, the sufferer is often a poor judge of their ability to safely drive a vehicle.

If you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries because of the negligence of another driver, contact Guajardo & Marks to learn more about how we can assist you. Our attorneys have years of experience handling serious personal injury cases. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.