Concussive injuries have been hypothesized to result in a decline in motor performance that does not become clinically relevant until later in life. Despite injuries occurring at a young adulthood, subtle changes in motor functioning may be present, but not clinically apparent until later in life as younger individuals benefit from cognitive reserve. Cognitive reserve is known to decrease with age, but when coupled with concussion-related cell death, cognitive decline may be exacerbated and ultimately develop into clinically meaningful signs and symptoms at an earlier age. Research conducted by members of this team has documented changes in balance, gait, and upper and lower extremity motor control in cohorts of previously concussed young adults. It remains to be seen, however, if these changes are also present in a complex, everyday task such as driving. Thus, the aim of this investigation is to evaluate the influence of concussion history on driving performance. Hypothesis: We hypothesize that those with a concussion history will demonstrate worse driving performance and skill on a driving simulator compared to age-matched non-concussed individuals.
This study is the first to examine the long-term effects of concussion on driving safety. Although the research team has extensive independent experience with concussion and driving safety, this is the first investigation to ever combine the two in a single protocol. This approach to the issue of concussion and driving is innovative in using a high-fidelity driving simulator as a safe and controlled approach to measuring real-world safety critical behaviors. In addition to basic driving measures, i.e., vehicle handling measures, this study proposes the examination of higher-order skills such as planning and anticipation behaviors, as well as visual scanning behaviors to study concussed versus non-concussed drivers.