New Study Questions Whether Cognitive and Physical Rest Improves Concussion Recovery Time
A new study published in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation calls into question whether acute cognitive and physical rest improves concussion recovery times. Thomas A. Buckley, EdD, ATC of the Department Kinesiology and Applied Physiology at the University of Delaware conducted a study to determine if rest after concussion would result in a shorter recovery time in a population of college-aged student-athletes.
This hypothesis was based on the 4th International Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport which recommends rest after injury as “a corner stone for acute concussion treatment” and outcomes. The authors noted that “rest” was achieved by discontinuing “school attendance, academic work, electronics usage and [any] exercise.” Prescribing rest was also believed to reduce the risk of repeated concussion and the “rare, but potentially fatal, second-impact syndrome.”
The participants in Buckley’s study included two groups: 1) 25 participants in a “no-rest” group who had over two years experienced concussions; 2) 25 participants in a “rest” group who were prescribed cognitive and physical rest. Both groups had comparable demographics, injury histories, and all presented with the same level of concussion.
The results were not expected. The no-rest group showed a decrease in symptoms up to 1.3 days earlier than the rest group. There were also no differences between groups in “recovery time for the balance error scoring system (BESS), standard assessment of concussion (SAC), computerized neuro- physiological test (CNT) and clinical recovery.”
The authors concluded that “rest” did not improve the response time for recovery. The most common predictors were “1) being female; 2) poor initial presentation; 3) higher baseline symptoms; and 4) poor CNT performance. “ However, even these traits delivered neutral results in some cases. The result did show, as least in this study that “cognitive and physical rest for acute post-concussion was not effective at reducing recovery time.”
The results of this study indicate that more research must be done to develop effective treatment strategies for brain injured patients. Studies like Buckley’s’ not only are useful for identifying new effective treatments, but also for ruling out treatments that no longer are effective.