Mar 3, 2023 - News

DU study finds long COVID patients could benefit from concussion treatment

Illustration of COVID cells arranged in a radial pattern with red circles overlaid on the image.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Concussions and long COVID have more in common than you might think, new research shows.

Driving the news: Findings from a recent University of Denver study, currently in the peer-review process, show people experiencing the prolonged virus share similarities with people diagnosed and recovering from a concussion.

Why it matters: The study could provide a roadmap for millions of Americans at a time when long COVID diagnoses and treatments continue to evade medical experts.

  • Symptoms vary widely and often include cognitive difficulties, balance problems and fatigue that become debilitating even with minimal physical or mental effort.

Details: DU researchers spent six months examining about 60 patients, roughly half with long COVID symptoms and half who had recovered from the virus.

  • Through a series of rapid-reading, balance and spatial-reasoning tests, they noticed people with long COVID showed a significant difference in eye-tracking movements and balance — mirroring those who had suffered a concussion.

What they're saying: Because both conditions inflame the brain, research suggests physicians can begin to use the "same tools" to assess a concussion to also evaluate the severity of the lingering virus, Brad Davidson, the study's head researcher, tells Axios Denver.

Of note: The clinic is "seeing great improvement" among COVID long-haul patients, "particularly in the neurological symptoms," he says.

What's next: Davidson intends to expand the study. He told Axios Denver he's working to secure funding for a six-week clinical trial for 30 to 50 people, with the ultimate goal of finding a treatment model that can be used nationwide.

The big picture: "We want to offer a message of hope — that there is treatment — and also spur on our clinical colleagues to integrate other areas, like physical therapy, into their work," Davidson says.

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