Contemporary Approaches for Evaluating the Effectiveness of Clinical Guidance

Research Paper Title

Use of a multi-level mixed methods approach to study the effectiveness of a primary care progressive return to activity protocol after acute mild traumatic brain injury/concussion in the military.


The large number of US service members diagnosed with concussion/mild traumatic brain injury each year underscores the necessity for clear and effective clinical guidance for managing concussion. Relevant research continues to emerge supporting a gradual return to pre-injury activity levels without aggravating symptoms; however, available guidance does not provide detailed standards for this return to activity process.

To fill this gap, the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center released a recommendation for primary care providers detailing a step-wise return to unrestricted activity during the acute phase of concussion. This guidance was developed in collaboration with an interdisciplinary group of clinical, military, and academic subject matter experts using an evidence-based approach. Systematic evaluation of the guidance is critical to ensure positive patient outcomes, to discover barriers to implementation by providers, and to identify ways to improve the recommendation.

Here the researchers describe a multi-level, mixed-methods approach to evaluate the recommendation incorporating outcomes from both patients and providers. Procedures were developed to implement the study within complex but ecologically-valid settings at multiple military treatment facilities and operational medical units. Special consideration was given to expected challenges such as the frequent movement of military personnel, selection of appropriate design and measures, study implementation at multiple sites, and involvement of multiple service branches (Army, Navy, and Marine Corps).

The researchers conclude by emphasizing the need to consider contemporary approaches for evaluating the effectiveness of clinical guidance.


Gregory, E., West, T.A., Cole, W.R., Bailie, J.M., McCulloch, K.L., Ettenhofer, M.L., Cecchini, A. & Qashu, F.M. (2016) Use of a Multi-level Mixed Methods Approach to Study the Effectiveness of a Primary Care Progressive Return to Activity Protocol after Acute Mild Traumatic Brain Injury/Concussion in the Military. Contemporary Clinical Trials. 2016 Nov 8. pii: S1551-7144(16)30228-2. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2016.11.005. [Epub ahead of print].


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