Returning to school or normal everyday activities is a difficult part of the recovery process after a concussion, but the hurdles are a normal experience.
A recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics confirms it is common for children who recently experienced a concussion to experience a resurgence of symptoms when they begin the process of returning to day-to-day activities, but they fade quickly and should be seen as a typical part of the process.
“The key implications for clinicians is that modest physical and mental activity did not worsen symptoms and that returning to school may cause an increase in symptoms, but this should not be seen as a setback in recovery,” said study co-author Dr. Danny Thomas, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Thomas is also an associate professor of pediatric emergency medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
“When a family calls concerned that their child’s symptoms got worse that first day back to school, clinicians can reassure them that spikes in symptoms are pretty common, get better with time, and do not seem to change your recovery time,” he said in a news release.
For the small study, the researchers had 63 children with concussion record their post-concussion activities and symptoms for a 10-day period. The average age of the children was 14 and the majority were male.
By comparing the records, the researchers observed that the children frequently experienced a spike in symptoms following sudden increases in mental activity – such as returning to school or social activities. However, the symptoms spikes weren’t immediate. Instead, they typically appeared a short time after the physical or mental activity.
The most important takeaway from the study is that children who recently experienced a concussion should return to activity gradually and be willing to take breaks when symptoms re-appear. With time, the symptoms will stop appearing and more vigorous mental activity can be resumed.
However, while the symptoms are a normal part of recovery, injured children should still avoid dangerous activities like sports until they have fully recovered and have been cleared by a medical professional.