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Mental Rest Important During Concussion Recovery

Update Date: Jan 06, 2014 11:25 AM EST

Concussions, which are caused by head trauma, affect both physical and mental health. Young and professional athletes alike who suffer from concussions are not allowed to participate in any sports activity until the symptoms have alleviated. In a new study, researchers found that people suffering from concussions might recover better if they also avoided mental tasks, such as homework.

"After a concussion, we recommend rest because kids tend to do too much," said the study's lead author, Dr. Naomi Brown, a physician in the division of sports medicine at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

For this study, Brown and senior study author, Dr. William Meehan, director of the Sports Concussions Clinic at Boston Children's Hospital examined 335 participants between the ages of eight and 23 with the average age of 15. The participants had all suffered a concussion. The researchers kept track of the individual's level of mental activity, which were categorized into sections titled mental rest, minimal mental activity, moderate mental activity, significant mental activity and full mental activity. The researchers also utilized a concussion-symptom scale to measure the participants' symptoms.

Even though the levels of mental activity were self-reported, the researchers found that people who had the highest levels of mental activity also had the longest recovery period. It took these participants around 100 days to fully recover without symptoms, such as headaches, blurred vision and dizziness. For participants who rested their brains, the average number of days it took them to fully recover was 43.

"We recommend a period of near full mental rest after injury -- approximately three to five days -- followed by a gradual return to full levels of mental activity," Meehan said according to HealthDay.

The researchers recommend that after a concussion, patients take their time in resuming their normal mental activity. The researchers stated that patients should slowly increase their mental activity especially when they are not feeling their symptoms

"If you shut down completely, meaning you don't go to school or do any reading or screen time, or if you do a little bit less than normal, you recover in the same time period -- an average of 20 to 50 days," Brown said. "We are not recommending complete abstinence from school, especially after the first week. If you go to school for a couple of hours and you are doing OK, then the next day you can go for a little bit more and slowly test it out."

The study was published in Pediatrics.

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