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Physical therapist monitoring physical activity by a young boy.

In the past, experts recommended delaying physical activity after a concussion. New research suggests that early return (within 1 week) to physical activity after a concussion may decrease the chances of long-term symptoms in children and teens.

According to findings published in JAMA, those who took part in early physical activity had a much lower risk of persistent postconcussive symptoms such as:

  • Headaches.
  • Nausea.
  • Balance issues.
  • Dizziness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Irritability.
  • Anxiety.
  • Insomnia.
  • Memory issues.
  • Vision problems.

The study included 2,413 children and teens between five and 18 years of age. Participants answered questions at seven days and 28 days after injury. Of the respondents, 30.5% rested for the first seven days, and 69.5% took part in some sort of physical activity. Activities included:

  • Light exercise.
  • Sport-specific exercise.
  • Noncontact drills.
  • Full-contact practice.
  • Full competition. 

Only 28.7% of those in the early physical activity group reported continued symptoms at day 28 compared with 40.1% of those who rested. 

Current concussion guidelines recommend an initial period of physical and mental rest (no longer than 48-72 hours). This should be followed by a progressive return to moderate or graded physical activity monitored by a trained health care provider, such as a physical therapist, to aid recovery. Study authors recommend randomized controlled trials to explore the subject more objectively.

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