A growing body of evidence is calling into question the long-held belief that extended rest is needed to treat a concussion in young people. More concussion specialists are encouraging patients to gradually resume normal activities as long as symptoms don’t worsen. “We are looking at concussions as an injury that can be rehabilitated and treated with specific therapies,” says Anthony Kontos, research director at the University of Pittsburgh. “Rest, especially prolonged rest, can have adverse effects for certain patients because they’re sitting around thinking about their symptoms, they’re withdrawn and they’re not engaged in normal social activities,” he says.
New studies are finding that resuming normal activities shortly after a concussion, often called active rehabilitation, can enhance recovery. Children who exercised within a week of getting a concussion reported nearly half the rate of persistent symptoms more than a month later compared with those who said they didn’t exercise. “After an operation you don’t just sit in bed and expect to get better,” says Danny Thomas, first author of the Pediatrics study. “You’re encouraged to get up and walk and do some light activity. With concussion, we’re moving more towards active rehabilitation earlier.”