More Rest May Not Be The Best Approach After Concussion

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Head Injuries and Sleep Disorders
New research could lead to a large shift in how teens with mild traumatic brain injuries are treated, as a study has found extended rest provides little benefit in recovery. In fact, it may even make matters worse.

Researchers from The Medical College of Wisconsin conducted a randomized trial to compare approaches using extended rest and those using shortened rest periods in mild concussion recovery. Using participants between the ages of 11 and 22, the team of scientists prescribed five days of rest to half of the 88 patients and two days of rest to the others.

When evaluated, the team saw those who were prescribed more rest reported more symptoms than those told to only rest for one to two days. Recovery for those prescribed more rest was also slower, according to the report published recently in the journal Pediatrics.

“Being told to rest for five days increased your rating of physical symptoms in the first few days and increased emotional symptoms every day for the next 10 days,” said lead researcher Dr. Danny Thomas, an assistant professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at the medical college.

“We should be cautious about automatically imposing excessive restrictions of activity following concussion,” Thomas said. “We should follow the current guidelines, which recommend an individualized approach to concussion management,” he added.

Patients in both groups reported feeling a 20 percent decrease in energy exertion and physical activity.

“Strict rest for five days immediately after concussion did not help teenagers get better, compared to our current advice of one to two days of rest followed by a gradual return to activity,” Thomas said. “We found that teenagers instructed to rest for five days actually reported more symptoms over the course of the study.”

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