Kids Need to Move After a Concussion

Light exercise may just be the best medicine

While rest has always been recommended and is needed after a concussion, a new study finds that young people may reduce their risk of ongoing symptoms if they get back up and get moving — lightly — within a week of suffering a concussion.

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Injured youth who resumed moderate activity — such as walking, swimming, and stationary cycling — within a week reduced their symptoms of nausea, headaches and dizziness a month later.

The study included over 2,400 kids, ages five to 17, at nine Canadian pediatric hospitals. All had suffered a concussion, and about 70 percent of their brain injuries occurred while they were playing sports or doing other recreational activities.

Dr. Roger Zemek of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, who led the study, wanted to see what effect activity might have on recovery.

What he and his team found was that exercise increases blood flow to the brain and could help speed up healing and improve cognitive function, which is often altered as a result of a concussion, researchers said.

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“We also know that by getting outside and doing this, patients are taken away from that negative cycle of ‘I’m sick’ and being stuck in that sick role,” Zemek told CTV News Channel. “And perhaps they’re seeing something they can do to help them improve.”

Related: A Single Season of Head Trauma Might Change the Brain

He reiterated that children should not resume full activities, especially anything that could lead to another concussion. But if a few days after the event, they want to go outside and simply take a walk or get up again and resume some normal activity, it might just be the best medicine.

“Patients should always be removed from the field of play at the time of their injury and not be allowed to return that same day, and patients should not be allowed to go back into an activity … until they’ve been cleared by a qualified medical professional,” he said.

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