Is Rest the Best Treatment for Kids with Concussions?

A Canadian study conducted from 2013 and 2015 has concluded that rest may not be the best course of treatment for kids suffering from a concussion. The study itself involved approximately 2,400 kids between the ages of 5 and 18. It follows years of research on the topic, and is the newest breakthrough in concussion medicine practice, which has otherwise been limited.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a temporary brain injury, caused by a significant hit to the head, neck or face. They are most commonly associated with aggressive sports, such as hockey or football, but can also occur in other instances, like car accidents, for example.

Symptoms generally include confusion, dizziness, amnesia and ringing of the ears. They can last for a number of days or weeks, and even as long as a several months. It all depends on the severity of the impact and previous concussions. However, as the concussion continues, symptoms can include headaches or nausea, and even changes to sleep patterns and mood.

If the concussion and its symptoms continue or become worse over time, this leads to a condition referred to as persistent post-concussion symptoms (PPCS).

Traditional treatments

Typically, concussions have been treated with plenty of rest – meaning no physical activity, and reduced time in front of a screen. Interestingly, there had been no previous evidence to support the claim that resting when suffering from a concussion is an effective form of treatment. This is because there is still relatively little knowledge on this medical condition. However, treatment of this sort stems from the belief that engaging in physical activity while suffering from a concussion could prolong the recovery period, or create further damage. In other words, rest was thought to prevent the symptoms from getting worse.

Over-the-counter medications are also sometimes recommended for symptoms such as headaches or nausea, which come as a secondary wave of concussion indicators.

Why rest might be best

Within the conclusions of the study, it was noted that the recovery period of a child with a concussion was significantly reduced when they participated in some form of physical activity within the first 7 days after the hit.

The study showed that 30.4% of participants developed PPCS, regardless of whether they rested or engaged in some form of exercise. However, the percentage of participants that did engage in activity was significantly less likely to develop PPCS, than those who do not, to the tune of 24.6% compared with 43.5%.

The link between physical activity and the reduction of concussion-related symptoms is believed to be because of the benefits of the activity itself. When considering other brain-related injuries and conditions, physical activity is frequently a routine part of the recovery process. This has partly to do with the increased blood flow to the brain that comes with exercise.

Despite this significant finding, many medical professionals are recommending that concussion treatment remain the same until further studies have been conducted. Regardless, this is an important first step towards a better understanding of the treatment for and concussions more generally.

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