Exercise After Concussion May Be a Smart Move
A recent study noted that concussion rates have doubled among U.S. kids. Data suggests that as many as two million kids and teens sustain a concussion yearly, though some experts say the number is even higher. The study showed the most significant rise among ten to fourteen year olds. It’s not clear if the rise is due to an actual increase in the number of concussions or just better diagnosis helping to diagnose more concussions.
Most kids will recover from a concussion with no residual problems. Having kids wear helmets when biking, skating, skateboarding or skiing helps to reduce the risk of a concussion. Awareness of symptoms of a concussion by a coach or parent is also critical to early diagnosis and treatment. Most concussions will not knock a person out. Symptoms of a concussion include: headache, dizziness, ringing in the ears, fatigue and confusion. If the individual has slurred speech, numbness, balance problems, severe headache, or vomiting more than once it should be considered a medical emergency.
Rest is usually one of the prominent recommendations post-concussion. When a concussion is diagnosed post sports-injury, current guidelines say children should refrain from play and all physical activity until concussion symptoms like headache resolve. This new study suggests that allowing kids to exercise within a week of the injury, regardless of the symptoms still present, may improve concussion and limit lingering symptoms.
The study, Early Resumption of Physical Activities and Persistent Post-Concussive Symptoms Following Pediatric Concussion, looked at 3,063 Canadian children between the ages of five and eighteen, who visited the emergency room in Canada and then answered survey questions about severity of symptoms and activity levels seven, fourteen and twenty one days after head injury. About 58% had resumed exercising a week after their concussion and 76% were physically active two weeks after the concussion, despite still experiencing post-concussion symptoms.
The non-compliance and not following rest recommendations that were noted, would normally worry the researchers, except for the fact that they observed faster recovery in those kids who began activities even as soon as seven days after the injury. The findings of this study seemed to echo earlier small studies suggesting physical activity sooner after concussion may be better than rest.
You don’t want the type of physical activities that would put the kids at risk of a re-injury like contact sports. Good choices of exercise post-concussion would include walking, swimming, using a stationary bike or other similar exercises. If further research confirms the findings of this study, then it would result in a major shift in terms of post-concussion management and recommendations.