DU study finds long COVID patients could benefit from concussion treatment
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.
- The same is likely true, he says, for treatment tools — which, at DU's High Definition Physical Therapy & Concussion Clinic, include physical rehabilitation mixed with brain teasers.
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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