Feasibility of concussion rehabilitation approaches tailored to psychological coping styles: A randomized controlled trial

Published:December 28, 2021DOI:



      To evaluate the feasibility of a clinical trial involving participants with concussion randomized to treatments designed to address fear avoidance or endurance coping, which are risk factors for disability. A secondary objective was to evaluate whether each treatment could effect selective change on targeted coping outcomes.


      Randomized controlled trial.


      Outpatient concussion clinics.


      73 adults (M=42.5 years old) who had persistent post-concussion symptoms and high avoidance or endurance behavior were enrolled at M=12.9 weeks post injury. 10 participants did not complete treatment.


      Participants were randomized to an interdisciplinary rehabilitation program delivered via videoconferencing and tailored to avoidance coping (graded exposure therapy; GET) or endurance coping (operant condition-based pacing strategies plus mindfulness training; Pacing+).

      Main outcome measures

      Feasibility outcomes included screening efficiency, accrual, credibility, treatment fidelity, adherence, and retention. Avoidance was measured with the Fear Avoidance Behavior after Traumatic Brain Injury questionnaire and endurance behavior with the Behavioral Response to Illness Questionnaire.


      Screening efficiency, or the proportion of clinic patients who were assessed for eligibility, was 44.5% (275/618). 65.8% (73/111) of eligible patients were randomized (n=37 to GET and n=36 to Pacing+), meeting accrual targets. 91.7% (55/60) of participants perceived treatment as credible. Therapists covered M=96.8% of essential prescribed elements, indicating excellent fidelity. The majority (71.2%; 47/66) of participants consistently attended treatment sessions and completed between-session homework. Retention was strong, with 65 of 73 (89%) randomized participants completing the outcome assessment. GET was associated with greater post-treatment reductions in avoidance behavior compared to Pacing+ (Cohen's drepeated measures = 0.81), whereas the treatment approach-specific effect of Pacing+ on endurance behavior was less pronounced (Cohen's drepeated measures = 0.39).


      Findings support a future efficacy-focused clinical trial. GET has the potential to selectively reduce fear avoidance behavior after concussion, and, via this mechanism, to prevent or reduce disability.


      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment


      Subscribe to Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect