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No Benefit From Prolonged Rest After Concussion

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When an athlete suffers concussion, it´s important that they leave the field of play and get the appropriate treatment and rest. But how much rest is needed?

A new study in the United States has found that prolonged rest after concussion is not necessarily beneficial.

The randomised trial included 88 young patients who sought medical care within one day of experiencing a concussion. They underwent neurocognitive, balance and symptom assessment in the emergency department before being advised to get cognitive and physical rest, either for no more than 48 hours or for five days.

Patients completed a diary to record their level of physical and mental activity, to calculate their energy exertion and to record daily post-concussive symptoms. Further neurocognitive and balance assessments were performed at three and 10 days after injury.

The researchers had expected to find that more rest would be helpful, according to a report on the study in the New York Times. But results showed that a longer period of rest did not lead to improved recovery in terms of balance or the ability to think clearly. Moreover, the patients who had five days of strict rest reported worse symptoms and slower resolution of symptoms than those in the short rest group.

The authors suggested that a longer period of rest may cause an increase in emotional symptoms, with patients perceiving themselves as more seriously injured.

The optimal period of rest varies, depending on age, initial symptoms, level of cognitive function and other variables, but overall the evidence suggests that young patients with concussion should rest for a few days, and then gradually resume normal activity if their symptoms are improving.

In the study, prolonged rest after concussion offered no added benefit over the usual care, the researchers concluded.

Their findings have been published in the journal Pediatrics.