How long is too long for post-concussion recovery?


    Ten days, a dark room, no cell phone and no television – that’s how many patients have been recovering from concussions.  But is this really the best method? A recent study says no, recovery time should be much shorter.

    Sarah Allen, a pediatric neuropsychologist at Philadelphia College of Medicine, said the study in the Journal “Pediatrics” recommends about three to five days of rest. This is due to the brain’s recovery process. The study found that people who got back to physical and cognitive activity sooner had better outcomes.

    “What [the brain] needs to do is kind of clean everything out and refocus and reconnect to everything,” Allen said. “If we don’t give it an opportunity to reconnect in the right way, then we have a longer recovery.”

    Allen mentioned they were seeing an increase in anxiety and depression in patients during the 10-day recovery process. She said it happens because people are being taken away from their daily interactions and activities, but it may also be physiological since you’re not allowing the brain to reconnect the way it’s suppose to.

    “It’s very similar to if you get hit in the leg by a baseball,” Allen said. “For the first period of time, you’re going to have trouble walking around, but then you want to get up, you want to give your lymphatic system a chance to rid itself of waste and fix itself.”

    Studying concussions is problematic because there are no control groups; therefore, scientists can’t get definitive answers the way they need to. However, Allen thinks this three-to-five-day method should stay around longer than the 10-day recovery process because it corresponds better with what experts know about the brain.

    “I think that this three to five days makes more sense from a neurophysiological standpoint,” she said. “I think we’re more on the right track, definitely, so hopefully this will stay around more.”

    Deciding how many days of rest a person needs depends on their symptoms.

    “If you have symptoms and they’re increasing, that means you’re doing a little too much and you need to pull back,” Allen said. “If your symptoms stay at bay, that means you can increase cognitive activity a little bit more.”

    Allen also said communicating with everyone involved with the individual gives them a better sense of how their recovery process is going. 

    Symptoms of concussions include headaches, trouble reading, nausea and fogginess. Most people recover from concussions within the first two weeks. After, that the recovery process is slower, but the individual will still most likely recover fully.

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