Can You Fly With a Concussion? | Can Flying Make a Concussion Worse?

Are you concerned about whether you should fly with a concussion? The latest scientific research indicates that it is safe to fly after a concussion, but it’s recommended to wait until the worst symptoms subside and your doctor has given you clearance to board a plane.

A concussion is considered a mild traumatic brain injury. When you fly after a traumatic brain injury, it’s important to use an abundance of caution. But it’s also comforting to know that a recent study found that flying with a concussion does not seem to worsen a concussion severity or symptoms.

What Is A Concussion?

Most people know of concussions from watching sports, especially American football. Because of the violent hits in the game, players suffer concussions on a regular basis. The National Football League has adopted a “concussion protocol” to manage concussions.

Outside of sports, concussions typically occur because of bad falls, car accidents and other incidents in which impact to the head causes the brain to forcefully strike the inside of the skull.

Concussions are a mild version of traumatic brain injury because they are not life-threatening. Concussion symptoms include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, memory loss and difficulty concentrating.

Most people recover from a concussion within a few weeks, sometimes just days. But if you’re about to fly with a concussion, it’s understandable why you might want to think twice before getting onboard.

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New Research Into Flying With a Concussion

A team of researchers from the National Collegiate Athletic Association and US Department of Defense Concussion Assessment, Research, and Education Consortium recently published findings from a new concussion study.

Conducted between 2014 and 2018, the study focused on the impact of concussions on athletes who flew 72 hours after sustaining the initial injury as compared to a control group who did not fly.

Researchers conducted the study with sports injuries in mind. “Athletes fly to and from games several times during a season. It is important to know if flying shortly after sustaining a concussion may affect their recovery and prevent them from completing their season,” Dr. Tara Sharma of the University of Washington Medical Center, lead author on the study, told Reuters Health.

The researchers looked at symptom severity and recovery for 165 people who flew and 2,235 who did not within 72 hours after sustaining an injury. They concluded that “airplane travel early after concussion was not associated with recovery or severity of concussion symptoms. These findings may help guide future recommendations on flight travel after concussion in athletes.”

Tips For Flying With a Concussion

While the study found that flying did not adversely impact athletes with concussions, it’s still important to check with a physician before flying. Each person is different, so you want medical clearance before getting on a plane. Keep in mind that the study also focused on athletes who likely were in prime physical condition.

If you find you must fly with a concussion, remember to avoid anything physically taxing. You want to rest your body as much as possible. It’s also important to bring a companion who can support you with getting through the airport and flying.

A flight nurse is excellent in this capacity, as they have medical training and can ensure you safely reach your destination and also help make you as comfortable as possible. They also help by having everything planned out to alleviate as much stress as possible for your trip. While it’s possible to fly with a concussion, it’s important to do so safely. Consult with your doctor and take along medical support if needed. They can provide the care you need to make your post-concussion flight go smoothly.

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