Teen athletes who have suffered a concussion could benefit from cutting out activities such as texting and playing video games.
Researchers looked teen athletes that had been diagnosed with a concussion, and found those who practiced "cognitive rest" recovered faster, a Boston Children's Hospital news release reported via PR Newswire.
"We believe this is the first study showing the independent, beneficial effect of limiting cognitive activity on recovery from concussion. Previously, the lack of such data has led to varied practice with regards to implementing cognitive rest, making it even controversial," William Meehan MD, from Boston Children's Division of Sports Medicine, said.
Medical experts have suggested this recovery technique for at least a decade, but little research had been conducted in order to back up their recommendations.
The research team analyzed athletes with a mean age of 15 who had suffered a concussion between October 2009 and July 2011. The researchers assessed the patients' symptoms using the Post-Concussion Symptom Scale and asked them to complete a Cognitive Activity Scale at every visit.
The five-point scale ranged from "complete cognitive rest-defined as no reading, homework, text messaging, video game playing and online activities-to full cognitive activity, or no limits at all. Cognitive activity levels were divided into quartiles," the news release reported.
The team determined the patients whom engaged in the highest levels of brain activity after receiving a concussion took the most time to recover.
The finding suggests students who have suffered a concussion should be given certain "academic accommodations" such as more time to complete homework assignments.
While cognitive rest is important in concussion recovery the researchers suggest a healthy balance. Patients who practiced complete rest, minimal activity ("no reading or homework, less than five text messages and less than 20 minutes of online activity and video games per day") recovered at the same rate as those who engaged in moderate activity ("reading less than 10 pages, less than 20 text messages and less than one hour combined of homework, online activity and video games per day").
"These findings indicate that complete abstinence from cognitive activity may be unnecessary," Meehan said. "Our findings suggest that while vigorous cognitive exertion is detrimental to recovery, more moderate levels of cognitive exertion do not seem to prolong recovery substantially. Thus, we recommend a period of near full cognitive rest acutely after injury, approximately [three to five] days, followed by a gradual return to sub-symptom levels of cognitive activity."