HealthDay News — High school athletes who return to play after medical clearance within 60 days experience a significant regression in their abilities to simultaneously walk and do simple mental tasks, according to researchers.

“Recent work has identified deficits in dual-task gait balance control for up to two months following adolescent concussion, however how resumption of pre-injury physical activities affects recovery is unknown,” wrote David R. Howell, from the University of Oregon in Eugene, and colleagues in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

To investigate the effects of return-to-activity (RTA) from concussion on measures of symptom severity, cognition, and balance control on single-task and dual-task walking, the researchers examined 19 adolescent patients with concussion and 19 controls. Symptom inventories, computerized cognitive testing, and single-task and dual-task gait analyses were evaluated at five time points (within 72 hours, one week, two weeks, one months, and two months post-injury).

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Following the RTA day, concussion participants significantly increased their total center-of-mass medial/lateral displacement (P=0.009) and peak velocity (P=0.048) during dual-task walking, compared to pre-RTA data, reported the investigators. Changes in balance and/or altered walking speed were observed in 12 of 19 patients. No changes for the concussion group or between groups were detected on measures of single-task walking, forward movement, or cognition.

“Adolescents with concussion displayed increased center-of-mass medial/lateral displacement and velocity during dual-task walking following RTA, suggesting a regression of recovery in gait balance control,” concluded the researchers.


  1. Howell D et al. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2014; doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000462