After a concussion, adolescents who engaged in the highest levels of cognitive activity took the longest to fully recover from their symptoms, according to a study in the February 2014 Pediatrics.
The study, “Effect of Cognitive Activity Level on Duration of Post-Concussion Symptoms,” published online Jan. 6, tracked 335 people ages 8 to 23 who visited a sports concussion clinic between October 2009 and July 2011 after suffering a concussion.
Participants reported whether they engaged in complete cognitive rest, minimal cognitive activity (no reading or homework, and less than 20 minutes per day of online activity and video games), moderate cognitive activity (reading less than 10 pages per day, and less than 1 hour total of homework, online activity and video games), significant cognitive activity (reading less and doing less homework than usual), and full cognitive activity. Those in the highest quartile of cognitive activity took approximately 100 days on average to recover from symptoms, compared to approximately 20 to 50 days for patients in the lower three quartiles.
The study adds support to recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and other groups in favor of academic accommodations that allow cognitive rest for students recovering from concussions, which may speed the recovery process.
The study found patients in the three lower quartiles of cognitive activity had similar durations of symptoms, which suggests that complete abstinence of cognitive activity may be unnecessary.
Editor’s note: One of the authors is a co-developer of the post-concussion assessment software used in the study.