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New Recommendations for Concussion Treatment

Woman with ice bag on head

Antonio Diaz from Getty Images/CanvaPro

The conventional treatment for concussions has been to rest in a dark room until symptoms go away. Research has consistently shown that strict rest is not beneficial and may significantly delay recovery, but the medical community has been slow to change its ways. Organizations like the Concussion Alliance are working to change that by educating patients and providers.

The Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport, a report prepared by an international panel of experts, recommends active rehabilitation. Immediately following a concussion, the report recommends continuing daily living activities, sleeping as needed and reducing screen time for 48 hours. Patients can return to light-intensity activity such as walking during the initial 24 to 48 hours following a concussion, provided the activity does not more-than-mildly exacerbate symptoms. After the first 48-hour period, the intensity of physical activity can be increased, so long as symptom exacerbation remains mild.

In a concussion, the brain jiggles and twists, causing the neurons—long, cordlike cells that transmit signals—to stretch and fray. During recovery, the brain reroutes signals around the damaged neurons. The healing process may result in exhaustion, headaches, feeling emotionally drained and having trouble performing simple tasks. Physical activity aids the healing process.

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