Until very recently, the widespread recommendation by the medical community to patients who had suffered a concussion was simple and straightforward: rest, rest and more rest. The previous guidelines for concussion rehabilitation stated that young athletes should refrain from all physical activity until all the lingering symptoms were resolved. This type of treatment is referred to as “cocooning” – when all forms of exercise and brain stimulation are halted, including reading, watching television or using smartphones, engaging in lengthy conversations and even exposure to the visual stimulation of light.
Evidence indicates that the brain benefits from and recovers faster with physical activity and movement post-concussion, and that prolonged rest time may even delay healing and recovery. Daily exercise that provides enough movement to promote healing, but not enough stress to exacerbate symptoms, is the “sweet spot” athletes are urged to maintain. One aspect of healing that should not be rushed is accommodations associated with school, work, and cognitive activity. The cognitive side effects from a concussion – such as memory loss or problems with concentration – can linger longer than the physical symptoms in some cases.