Some patients experience persistent postconcussive symptoms (PCS) after a mild head injury (MHI). According to the coping hypothesis, PCS result from the increased stress that head-injured patients experience when they are not able to cope with environmental demands. This study examined the coping ability and Cortisol reactivity of MHI patients with and without PCS and in uninjured controls. Patients with PCS 12–34 months after injury were individually matched with MHI patients without PCS (N = 11) and healthy controls (N = 11) for the time elapsed since the injury, age, sex, education, and IQ. First, we found that patients with PCS reported being less able to cope with problems. These patients appeared to be inferior in active problem solving and had a more depressive attitude toward problems than subjects of the two control groups. Second, we found no differences between the three groups in the mean Cortisol response during a vigilance task. These results only partly support the coping hypothesis. With respect to cognitive performance, we found that decrements in a vigilance task were related to an increased Cortisol response during this task, especially in apparently “recovered” (asymptomatic) MHI patients. The latter finding may point to an increased cognitive vulnerability of apparently recovered MHI patients when exposed to a CNS stressor.
Bohnen, N., Jolles, J., Twijnstra, A., Mellink, R., & Sulon, J. (1992). Coping styles, cortisol reactivity, and performance in a vigilance task of patients with persistent postconcussive symptoms after a mild head injury. International Journal of Neuroscience, 64(1-4), 97-105. https://doi.org/10.3109/00207459209000536