Concussions, even mild concussions, are serious injuries in kids and adults. Concussions are a form of traumatic brain injury. For kids, standard aftercare includes taking a break from school, sports and lots of solitary rest at home. But how much rest do kids need? A new study has found that extended rest may not provide more benefit. The following is from an interview on Boise State Public Radio.
A group of researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin followed 88 kids with concussions, ages 11 to 22. Half of the patients were told to rest for one to two days; half were told to rest for five days. Asked about the groups’ assumptions prior to the study, lead researcher Dr. Danny Thomas said, “When we started the study, we really thought that rest would be better, and that’s why we thought to test more rest up front being helpful in improving concussion outcomes.”
To the surprise of the researchers, the kids who rested longer did not fare better than the kids who rested only one or two days. Neurocognitive outcomes and balance outcomes were the same in both groups 10 days post-concussion.
Further, the researchers found that kids who stayed home for five days complained of more physical symptoms in the first few days. As the rest days went on, the kids who stayed home longer reported more emotional symptoms like irritability and sadness.
Dr. Thomas and his team have posited several theories behind the increased symptoms. The researchers speculated that the mostly teenage group missed the social aspect of school or that the five-day group simply had more time to fill out their symptom diaries. Another possible reason? No distractions and more time to dwell on symptoms.
A doctor outside the study questioned if the patients told to stay home longer were in fact sicker and therefore had more to report. But researchers say the kids’ rest time was randomized. Dr. Thomas had another takeaway from the difference in the groups. “But in the end, that’s actually where I would say is the most important aspect, is that they didn’t really have a difference in their outcome. So five days of rest didn’t really make them better and actually delayed the time that it took to get them back to their school and back to the normal activities.”
If your child has a concussion or a suspected concussion, always seek medical attention promptly. A medical professional will be able to assess the injury and will counsel you on proper aftercare. Remember, even a mild brain injury can have serious effects. Always treat brain injuries with the respect they deserve.