Many people credit the concussion that Sidney Crosby suffered against the Washington Capitals back in January of 2011 as the catalyst for increased concussion research, though the collection of information on these potentially devastating injuries dates back much further than this. Today there are many researchers and organizations across the world such BIG (Brain Injury Group) and Stop Concussions (www.stopconcussions.com) that are working towards developing consensus treatment and prevention of concussions. Unfortunately, although we have more up top date research, some health professionals continue to prescribe the “dark room treatment” to far too many individuals.
A few recent studies that I have read (credit to SHIFT Concussion for sending them) (https://www.shiftconcussion.ca/) have examined the effects of early exercise intervention for those who have suffered an acute concussion. The results of these studies suggest that sub-maximal aerobic exercise following a concussion might reduce the risk for persistent post concussion symptoms and allow faster and more successful return to sport and school. One study found that prescribing rest after a concussion might actually exacerbate the symptoms in the first 10 days post-injury. Now, it is important to note that in one study, they controlled for individuals with more significant signs of concussion, and these individuals were prescribed “relative rest” for 5 days. These individuals did appear to benefit from this rest period, meaning that in more severe cases, rest might be necessary. Proposed mechanisms for improved recovery with early exercise after concussion include neuroplasticity (that’s a topic for another day!) and improved cerebrovascular blood flow.
In summary, it is important to be properly evaluated after a suspected concussion. Depending on the severity of the injury, early sub-maximal exercise and early return to school might actually reduce the persistence of post-concussion symptoms. The old “dark room treatment” might not be the best treatment going forward, but rest might be indicated in more severe injuries. If you, or someone you know, have suffered a concussion, book your appointment at South Simcoe Physiotherapy today. We look forward to Shaveta completing her SHIFT Concussion provider training next month!