Cognitive Rest Helps Heal Concussions
To heal the concussed brain, give it a rest, reports Michelle Healy, of USA Today. New research involving 335 children and young adults, ages 8 to 23, finds that cognitive rest speeds recovery from concussions. Those reporting the highest levels of cognitive activity such as reading, doing homework, playing video games, took about 100 days, on average, to recover from their symptoms. Study participants reporting lesser levels of cognitive activity recovered in 20 to 50 days.
The study defined cognitive activities to be “activities that require you to think harder than usual." Researchers grouped the participants according to the average amount of cognitive activity—from complete cognitive rest to a full schedule—that they reported doing between each visit to a concussion clinic.
The results also showed that "there's no need to take cognitive rest to the extreme, " such as putting patients in a dark room and eliminating all cognitive activity, as advocated by some. "Those who were doing milder levels of cognitive activity recovered at about the same rate as those who were doing minimal levels, " says study co-author William Meehan, III, M.D., director of research for the Brain Injury Center at Boston Children's Hospital and director of the Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program, reports that between 1.7 and 3 million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur every year. Five of ten concussions go unreported or undetected. The program estimates that one in ten high school athletes who play contact sports will suffer a concussion this year.
Healy quotes Greg Canty, M.D., director of the Center for Sports Medicine at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Missouri, as saying that this research “starts to build a better body of evidence, adding some recognition that it's not just physical rest that may allow that brain to heal, but that some degree of cognitive rest is also likely beneficial."