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Concussion Recovery Aided by Mental Rest

Jan 06, 2014 12:38 PM EST
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No homework - doctor's orders. Prescriptions like these may become even more commonplace after a recent study found that teens diagnosed as having a concussion healed two to three times faster when put on mental rest.

Published in the journal Pediatrics, the report included 335 patients with a mean age of 14, all of whom were taken to the Sports Concussion Clinic at Boston Children's Hospital within three weeks of a concussion. The participants' symptoms were recorded along with their cognitive activity at each visit.

In order to carry out the latter, researchers used a 5-point scale that ranged from complete rest, including no reading, homework, text messaging, video games or online activities, to no limits on mental activity whatsoever.

The results indicated that those teens engaged in the greatest amount of activity took an average of 100 days to recover, compared to roughly 20-50 days engaged in limited activity, CBC reported.

The idea that cognitive rest may improve concussion outcomes is not new. For more than 10 years, physicians have prescribed it to patients suffering from the condition that results from the brain going into a spinning motion, most often due to a direct blow to the head. However, evidence supporting the recommendation has long been sparse.

"We believe this is the first study showing the independent, beneficial effect of limiting cognitive activity on recovery from concussion," Dr. William Meehan, from Boston Children's Division of Sports Medicine, said in a statement. "Previously, the lack of such data has led to varied practice with regards to implementing cognitive rest, making it even controversial."

Based on the results, the researchers suggest that accommodations - including giving extra time for homework - are an important part of recovery, though should be approached with a degree of moderation.

"These findings indicate that complete abstinence from cognitive activity may be unnecessary," Meehan said. "Our findings suggest that while vigorous cognitive exertion is detrimental to recovery, more moderate levels of cognitive exertion do not seem to prolong recovery substantially. Thus, we recommend a period of near full cognitive rest acutely after injury, approximately 3-5 days, followed by a gradual return to sub-symptom levels of cognitive activity."

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