Updated June 27 2021
Many people with a concussion are told by their healthcare practitioners to rest. In some cases, when their symptoms don’t go away, they are told to rest some more. But, is this the right approach?
While limited rest is important in the acute stage (24 – 48 hours), evidence continues to show that concussion patients should participate in sub-symptom threshold physical activity as early as 2 to 3 weeks into recovery.1
Why is physical activity important following a concussion?
Aerobic exercise has been shown to improve brain function and increase brain chemicals responsible for repairing injured tissue.2
Is physical activity safe?
Sub-symptom physical activity has been shown to be a safe form of treatment following a concussion in children and adults.3
When should physical activity begin?
There are many misconceptions surrounding concussion recovery. One of which being physical activity should begin only after symptom resolution. However, there is little to no evidence to suggest complete rest beyond 3 days is beneficial.2
A recent study found that children and adolescent patients who engaged in physical activity during their recovery were less likely to have prolonged symptoms.4 Researchers investigated youth athletes who initiated physical activity at 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6+ weeks following a concussion diagnosis. Their findings indicated that athletes who began physical activity earlier had better outcomes.5 Guided exercise has also been shown to be one of the most effective treatment options for someone who has prolonged concussion symptoms (i.e., lasting longer than 1 month).6
What type of physical activity should my child participate in?
Complete Concussion Management practitioners are trained in the latest exercise protocols based on research from the University of Buffalo. By undergoing a simple treadmill test, our practitioners can identify the amount and intensity of physical activity based on your symptoms, and create an individualized program. Click here to find a clinic to help guide your recovery.
To increase your concussion knowledge, check out our FREE weekly concussion workshops for healthcare professionals!
1 McCrory, P., et al. (2017). Consensus statement on concussion in sport—the 5th international conference on concussion in sport held in Berlin, October 2016. British Journal of Sports Medicine. http://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2017-097699.
2 Leddy, JJ. & Willer, B. (2013). Use of Graded Exercise Testing in Concussion and Return-to-Activity Management. American College of Sports Medicine 12(6), 1-7.
3 Cordingley, D., et al. (2016). Graded aerobic treadmill testing in pediatric sports-related concussion: safety, clinical use, and patient outcomes. Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics, 18(6), 693–702. http://doi.org/10.3171/2016.5.PEDS16139.
4 Grool, A. M., et al. (2016). Association Between Early Participation in Physical Activity Following Acute Concussion and Persistent Postconcussive Symptoms in Children and Adolescents. Jama, 316(23), 2504–2. http://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2016.17396.
5 Gagnon, I., et al. (2017). When is it time to start rehab? exploring the optimal timing to initiate active rehabilitation for concussion management in children and adolescents. British Journal of Sports Medicine. http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/51/11/A87.2.
6 Lal A, et al. The Effect of Physical Exercise After a Concussion: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2017;2012(2):1-10.