Cognitive Impairment and Driving Skills in Youth After Concussion

Frederick P. Rivara, Beth E. Ebel, Mayuree Binjolkar, Jin Wang, Amelia Hanron, Emily Kroshus, Linda Ng Boyle, Kristina E. Patrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Concussions can impact cognitive processes necessary for driving. Young adults, a group who are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, have limited driving experience and a higher rate of motor vehicle collisions; they may be at higher risk for driving impairment after concussion. There are no clear guidelines for return-to-driving following a concussion. We sought to examine the simulated driving performance of young drivers after receiving medical care following a concussion, compared with a similar control population, to examine the association of driving performance with performance on neuropsychological tests. We evaluated 47 drivers, 16- to 25-year-old, within 3 weeks of sustaining a concussion and 50 drivers with similar characteristics who had not sustained concussions. Participants completed demographic questionnaires, the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool-5 (SCAT-5), and a brief set of neurocognitive tests, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Toolbox Cognition Battery and the Trail Making Test, and a simulated driving assessment. At various times during simulated driving, participants were asked to respond to tactile stimuli using the tactile detection response task (TDRT), a validated method of testing cognitive load during simulated driving. The concussion group reported significantly higher symptoms on the SCAT-5 than the comparison group. Performance on crystallized neurocognitive skills was similar between groups. Performance on fluid neurocognitive skills was significantly lower in the concussion than comparison group, although scores were in the normal range for both groups. Simulated driving was similar between groups, although there was a small but significant difference in variation in speed as well as TDRT miss rate, with worse performance by the concussion group. Symptom report on the SCAT-5 was significantly associated with TDRT miss rate. In addition, neurocognitive test scores significantly predicted TDRT reaction time and miss count with medium to large effect sizes. Results suggest that neurocognitive screening may be a useful tool for predicting capacity to return to drive. However, further research is needed to determine guidelines for how neuropsychological tests can be used to make return to driving recommendations and to evaluate effects of concussion on real world driving.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1187-1196
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - Jun 1 2023


  • cognitive test
  • concussion
  • driving
  • driving simulator
  • motor vehicle collision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'Cognitive Impairment and Driving Skills in Youth After Concussion'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this