Due to the lack of a standard definition for the term concussion, the label is often applied to people with mild traumatic brain injuries as well as to those with more severe injuries. A new study reveals that in children, the concussion label is strongly predictive of earlier discharge from the hospital and an earlier return to school, independent of the presence of associated injuries and score on the Glasgow Coma Scale.

“Clinicians may use the concussion label because it is less alarming to parents than the term mild brain injury, with the intent of implying that the injury is transient with no significant long-term consequences,” investigators explain (Pediatrics. 2010;125:327-334).

In an analysis of 434 children hospitalized with the diagnosis of acquired brain injury, the youngsters labeled as having a concussion had shorter hospital stays, spent fewer days away from school, and were more than twice as likely to return to school sooner (severity of injury notwithstanding). The findings suggest that if a child is given a diagnosis of concussion, the family is less likely to consider it an actual injury to the brain and may not be taking the condition seriously enough.

In other concussion news, an exercise training program helped a small group of individuals suffering from post-concussion syndrome (PCS) regain the ability to return to their daily activities. In PCS, concussion symptoms persist beyond six weeks for unknown reasons.

Investigators employed treadmill testing and subsequent supervised increases in exercise to help 12 PCS patients get back to their everyday routines in fewer than four months (Clin J Sport Med. 2010;20:21-27).

Finally, a simple, inexpensive device may help determine whether a person has suffered a concussion: a cylinder attached to a weighted disk. In a study, seven of eight college athletes with concussions took about 15% longer to catch the device compared with their reaction times recorded at their preseason physicals. The findings will be presented in April at the American Academy of Neurology’s 62nd Annual Meeting in Toronto.