MONDAY, Jan. 6, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Young people who suffer
a concussion often want to return to school and begin using
electronics right away, but resuming everyday life too quickly
might delay recovery, researchers say.
Kids who give their brains a few days' rest and gradually return
to normal mental activity heal faster than those who rush back to
their books, computers and TVs, a new study suggests.
"After a concussion, we recommend rest because kids tend to do
too much," said the study's lead author, Dr. Naomi Brown, a
physician in the division of sports medicine at the Children's
Hospital of Philadelphia.
Senior study author Dr. William Meehan, director of the Sports
Concussion Clinic at Boston Children's Hospital, said that although
the findings suggest vigorous mental exertion is detrimental to
recovery, more moderate levels of mental exertion do not seem to
prolong recovery substantially.
"We recommend a period of near full mental rest after injury --
approximately three to five days -- followed by a gradual return to
full levels of mental activity," Meehan said.
Brown said parents might overreact and want their children to
refrain from any activity that requires concentration. But the
study of more than 300 concussion patients, which was published
online Jan. 6 in the journal
Pediatrics, showed that only those who reported the most
mental activity took the longest time to fully recover -- an
average of 100 days.
For the others, a complete retreat from mental stimulation was
no more effective than partial rest. "If you shut down completely,
meaning you don't go to school or do any reading or screen time, or
if you do a little bit less than normal, you recover in the same
time period -- an average of 20 to 50 days," Brown said.
After concussions, young people can resume normal mental
activity a little at a time. Brown suggested working only to the
point where symptoms such as headaches, blurred vision or dizziness
begin. That's when the brain is being overstimulated.
"We are not recommending complete abstinence from school,
especially after the first week," she said. "If you go to school
for a couple of hours and you are doing OK, then the next day you
can go for a little bit more and slowly test it out."
But every patient is different, Brown said. An 18-year-old might
feel great two days after a concussion and be ready to return to
school, but a 10-year-old might need extra time, she said.
The findings support current recommendations.
Dr. John Kuluz, director of traumatic brain injury and brain
rehabilitation at Miami Children's Hospital, said he counsels
concussion patients to take it easy. "Rest is the cornerstone of
concussion therapy," he said.
"I tell my patients, 'You have to slow down, but I don't want
you to do nothing. I want you to find the right amount of mental
activity for you, and you find that level by paying attention to
your symptoms,'" Kuluz said.
For the study, Brown's team followed 335 people aged 8 to 23 who
had suffered a concussion. Their average age was 15.
Each patient reported the amount of mental activity they engaged
in: complete mental rest; minimal mental activity (no reading or
homework, and less than 20 minutes of online activity and video
games a day); moderate mental activity (reading fewer than 10 pages
per day, and spending less than an hour on homework, online
activity and video games); significant mental activity (reading
less and doing less homework than usual); or full mental
The researchers used a concussion-symptom scale and found that
patients who engaged in the most mental activity took about 100
days to completely recover, having no headaches, dizziness or
For those who gave their brains time to heal, recovery time was
cut to an average of 43 days, the study found.
Study co-author Michael Collins is one of the developers and
owners of the company that created and sells the
concussion-assessment tool used in the study.
For more information on concussions, visit the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.