The aim of this study was to examine the efficacy of the SMART (Self-Management After Recent Traumatic brain injury) program and potential moderators.
Parallel randomized controlled trial (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03498495) was conducted. Eligibility criteria included treatment for mild traumatic brain injury in the emergency department and age 11–18 years. Participants were assigned equally to SMART (n = 35) or usual care (UC; n = 36). SMART included symptom monitoring and online modules supporting the return to activities and symptom management. Coping and quality of life (QoL) (primary outcomes) and post-concussive symptoms (secondary outcome) were assessed at baseline and weekly for 4 weeks.
Groups did not differ in coping, QoL, or return to pre-injury symptom levels at any time point. Problem-focused engagement (PFE) moderated group differences over time (p = .02). At high PFE, UC participants reported lower QoL at time 1 (effect size [ES] = 0.60); SMART participants did not report a decline at any point. At low PFE, SMART participants reported declining QoL from pre-injury to time 1 (ES = 0.68), whereas UC participants reported an increase from time 1 to 3 (ES = 0.56). PFE also moderated group differences on the Health and Behavior Inventory (HBI) cognitive (p = .02) and somatic symptom scales (p = .05). At high PFE, SMART participants reported a more rapid return to pre-injury levels than UC participants (p = .05). Resilience also moderated group differences in QoL and HBI cognitive recovery.
Effectiveness of the SMART app varied based on preinjury coping styles and resilience, underscoring the potential need to tailor treatments to individual characteristics.