Concussion recovery: rest, rest, and more rest
Recent concussions treatment research reveals that taking a break from the classroom is as important as taking time off the field while recuperating from head injuries. Doctors had long suspected this and advised their patients accordingly, and now research backs up their advice.
Researchers found that concussion patients who took a brief period of complete rest shortened their recovery time. The study included 335 patients ranging in age from 8 to 23. These are significant findings for treating head injuries in children. Youth are the segment of the population most at-risk for long term damage because of their still-developing brains.
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Recent research study and findings
The study found that half of kids who did not take complete rest immediately following their injury took 100 or more days to fully recuperate. Nearly all who took the time to rest fully before slowly returning to daily activities recuperated in less than 100 days, some as quickly as two months. Evidence also indicates that the reduction of mind activity after a concussion lessens the symptoms associated with head injuries.
The severity of the symptoms determines how much time each child needs to rest the brain.Three to five days is usually sufficient, according to study co-author William Meehan of the Sports Concussion Clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Then you can gradually reintroduce them to cognitive activity. They should do as much as they can without exacerbating their symptoms,” said Meehan.
What’s involved in the healing process
A jolt to the head can result in what’s tantamount to a mini seizure. The brain cells fire up all at once, depleting their fuel. To recover, the brain shuts down as it begins the process of restoring the cells. That recovery time is prolonged when brain activity is resumed too early.
“[I]t can take days to weeks for processes in the brain to mop up the mess from a concussion,” said Douglas Smith of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center.
Taking it slow
The litmus test for returning to activities is being able to do whatever doesn’t aggravate the symptoms. Start with 15 minutes of reading or computer time. But if a headache or other symptoms start up, it’s time to take a break and rest. Increase activity time as the child is able without triggering symptoms or pain.
For more information and to find out more about concussion risk management you can check out our concussion resources.