Children and teens should not rest after a concussion, study says

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HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) – Many parents have heard the advice that kids need physical and mental rest after a concussion, but a new study is showing the opposite of that. Kids who rested actually had symptoms of a concussion last longer.

“I was blocking, and two of my team mates hit me on both sides of my helmet at the same time,” Jordan Bush said.

Bush got his concussion playing football during his senior year at Cumberland Valley High School.

“What I remember is feeling dazed and not really knowing where I was,” Bush said. “A few of them said I was walking to the other team’s huddle instead of ours.”

His concussion took him out of the game for almost three weeks.

“Shelia, our athletic director, told me to rest and take some time off,” Bush said.

A new Canadian study goes against that conventional wisdom.

“The children and adolescents that resumed more normal activities sooner during that first week actually did better than the ones that had the enforced rest,” said Dr. Robert Harbaugh, director of the Penn State Neuroscience Institute.

2,413 children and teens with concussions at nine hospitals participated in the study. 40 percent of inactive kids showed post-concussive symptoms after 28 days, while only 28 percent of kids who exercised showed those symptoms.

“Physical activity doesn’t mean going back to contact sports in that first week but that they can get up and do aerobic exercises,” Harbaugh said.

This also applies to mental activity.

“This idea of cognitive rest, I think this study would suggest that may be wrong, that it’s perfectly fine to go back to school if you feel you can tolerate it,” Harbaugh said.

Bush is now a personal trainer who helps Cumberland Valley High School football players outside of their normal weightlifting program.

“I think that in time maybe that will be the approach because when you sprains or bruises, it’s not the best thing to rest,” Bush said. “It’s trying to get some blood flow going, some mobility things in there.”

Researchers will hold a follow-up study in 2017.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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