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Too much mental rest in concussion treatment may hinder recovery

Electroencephalography is one of the methods used to test brain function after a concussion

Electroencephalography is one of the methods used to test brain function after a concussion / CC Wikipedia

Rest has been the prescribed treatment for many children who have suffered a concussion, but new studies show too much rest isn’t good.

Clinical experts are now recommending light physical activity and rehabilitation to help kids recover quicker and to not lose their physical conditioning. Today I spoke with WAKR morning show host Ray Horner about this topic.

Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion.

0:00

HORNER: Dr. Joe Congeni from the Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital on board with us. As you know, from listening to Joe through the years, a leading advocate for concussions and taking care of our youth in regards to head injuries. Joe, you said you have some more information for us this morning?

DR. CONGENI: Yeah. We haven’t talked about concussion in a while. I try not to be overbearing on that topic.

One of the things that’s interesting this week is that we have our big, annual conference on children’s sports medicine. We have speakers from all over the country, all over the world.

We have 2 of the real experts coming in about concussion. Steve Simons is coming from Indiana and Kathryn Schneider is coming from Vancouver, Canada. She’s really the expert on what is being called concussion rehab.

People are a little surprised to hear that rehab can help with concussion. There’s been a lot of talk in literature in the last year or two and in clinical treatment. We’ve seen tremendous results here at sports medicine.

Let me explain it a little bit. I think a couple years ago when we were talking about mental and physical rest and kids staying home from school and staying away from (after they’re concussed) doing a lot things that hyper stimulate the brain — I think a lot of people took that way too far.

Dr. Joe Congeni

Dr. Joe Congeni

We were seeing kids who were resting for 3 weeks, 1 month, 2 months after their concussion. They really worked their whole body into a detrained state. I don’t think that was good.

A lot of what people are talking about now is that (yes) mental rest helps, but maybe for 2 or 3 days or at the most a week. We actually want to get that athlete going again.

In the last year there’s been a lot of talk about rehabilitation — getting people doing light aerobic activity early on. It’s called sub symptomatic. We get them moving in that first week (just below where their symptoms are).

A lot of time if they have a therapist working with them — instead of just telling them to go ride the bike or run around the track on their own – (they can) work with the therapist to start a little bit of aerobic training again. Get them running and moving a little.

And then also there’s a real key component that we don’t fully understand yet Ray. (It has to do with) the neck and the middle ear with concussions.

Kathryn Schneider from Vancouver is the world’s expert in physical therapy type (rehab). She’s going to be speaking at our conference both Friday and Saturday of this week.

Doing these 2 things (is important) — getting going on some rehab of the neck and middle ear (the vestibular system) and also getting going on aerobic training (getting people moving again).

I’m telling you in the last year I’m very encouraged that a lot of our concussions are getting better quicker. You know you hear from me — we have to look at the research and many people around the country are doing this — but so far the results have been really encouraging.

HORNER: Alright, good stuff, great insight. Thanks Joe, appreciate the time.

DR. CONGENI: OK Ray, have a great week.

HORNER: You too. Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital, joining us.

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About Dr. Joe Congeni - Director of Sports Medicine

Dr. Joe Congeni is the Director, Sports Medicine; Clinical Co-Director, Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at Akron Children's Hospital. For the past 25 years, Dr. Congeni has been the “go to” source for national and local media looking for information about pediatric sports medicine.

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