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Dr. John Lucas

Dr. John Lucas

Concussion research sets national standard

It all started with a question: Should you be driving after a concussion?

To find the answer, John Lucas, MD, began to study the driving reaction times of those who suffered a concussion.

Many of Dr. Lucas’s patients at the Sports Medicine Institute in Spartanburg, S.C., have experienced concussions. When making care recommendations for them, Dr. Lucas realized driving was not being discussed at a national level.

Now this concern is being taken more seriously. Dr. Lucas’s research was recognized by the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) in their consensus statement for concussions. The AMSSM is a national organization for sports medicine physicians. This statement provides a summary of everything clinicians and researchers need know on concussions, including recommended care. The summary of research is then used by physicians nationwide to make medical diagnoses and care recommendations.

“We have intensive protocols for when student athletes should return to play, or return to the classroom, but nothing for driving,” said Dr. Lucas, head of the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System’s Sports Medicine Institute. “They leave the office, get behind the wheel of a car, and drive home.”

Dr. Lucas partnered with Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) in 2016 to study teens who had recently suffered from a concussion using a driving simulator. The simulator judged their reaction times when it came to hitting the brakes in different driving scenarios.

The study was to determine how soon a patient should drive after a concussion. Physicians provide information about when a student should return to playing a sport or go back to school but driving is often not mentioned. If their reaction times are delayed, Dr. Lucas recommends that patients should not be driving until they have fully recovered.

In 2018, Dr. Lucas’s research was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which was cited in the AMSSM consensus statement.

The AMSSM recognizing Dr. Lucas’s research means that the driving study is moving the needle on national recommendations for driving after a concussion.

“This shows the committee is taking return to drive seriously,” Dr. Lucas said. “One of our goals with this research was to affect policy and the consensus statement dictates standard of care. Our research is still early, but the mention shows we are making progress.”