When it comes to concussions, rest is often recommended as the first line of treatment. But in the last couple of years, staying sedentary while waiting for a concussion to heal is no longer a given. Instead, physical activity is now considered a viable part of an overall treatment plan — especially in those crucial first few days post concussion. It turns out that the science behind rest after receiving a blow to the head isn’t as strong as previously thought. There’s even discussion suggesting it may be more harmful than helpful, leading to increased risk of lethargy, anxiety and depression, especially among the active set for whom exercise is a vital part of their lifestyle.
One of the most recent studies, performed by a team out of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, reported that “resumption of physical activity within seven days post concussion was associated with a lower risk of Persistent Post Concussion Syndrome as compared to no physical activity.” The boost in oxygen flow associated with exercise allows the brain to heal quicker as compared to the more sluggish cerebral blood flow associated with sedentary behavior. There’s no consensus on the ideal volume or intensity of exercise best suited to recovery. As for the type of physical activity, he suggests aerobic exercise is the best option for those early days after being diagnosed with a concussion. “Divergence from conservative rest recommendations following concussion toward early active physical rehabilitation would be a new approach in concussion management, potentially affecting the well-being of millions of children and families worldwide,” said researchers.