How long is long enough? or too long?
It’s now common knowledge that rest from school and other activities is the recommended protocol for young concussion patients. But the new question is how much rest is beneficial to the healing process. Some experts are saying that less is more.
Doctors and scientists are divided in their opinions as to how much rest is best for injured youngsters. Some recommend 24 to 48 hours, while others say longer is required.
Results from a recent study led by Danny G. Thomas, a pediatric emergency medicine doctor at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin show that the patients resting for five days reported more physical symptoms such as nausea and headaches. They also exhibited more emotional symptoms over the course of 10 days, such as irritability and sadness.
The study looked at 88 concussed patients ages 11 to 22 who sought treatment at the emergency room of Children’s Hospital. Those whose doctors prescribed strict rest for five days reported more symptoms than those told to rest only one or two days. The patients resting longer also had slower recovery times than the patients prescribed with less rest time.
None of the patients in the study were admitted to the hospital and researchers say the findings don’t apply to patients with severe brain injuries.
Participants of the study rated their symptoms every day, took computerized and paper exams to test their brain function, and had their ability to balance measured. Researchers saw no difference in brain function or ability to balance among the patients.
There may be consequences to unnecessarily restricting of activities, suggests Gerard Gioia, a pediatric neuropsychologist at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington. Prolonged rest could cause students to worry about falling behind in schoolwork and being apart from their friends. This could result in anxiety or mood changes, according to Gioia.
Obviously a too-early return to normal activity is an invitation for a second injury. Concussion patients should be under the care of a doctor who specializes in concussions. For more information on returning to activities following a concussion, we encourage you to read “Skip Practice, and the Books, following a Concussion” and our other concussion-related articles.