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Research suggests long rest period not good for teen concussions

A standard part of the prescription when a teenager suffers a concussion, whether from a sports injury or in a car accident, is to get plenty of rest. A day or two is typical, but sometimes doctors order brain injury patients to stay away from work and school for several more days. That may not help teen brains heal, a new study suggests. In fact, it may be doing them harm.

Researchers used 88 patients aged 11 to 22 who came to a particular emergency room with a concussion for their study. Choosing at random, they advised the patients to rest either for one to two days and slowly restart normal activities after that, or to rest for five days. The patients in the latter group were told not to go to school or work, or engage in any physical activity.

Contrary to what you might expect, those prescribed strict rest for five days did not recover from their concussions more quickly than the other teenagers. In fact, their symptoms tended to grow worse during the 10 days following their ER visits.

The study suggests that all that time doing nothing can cause teens to fixate on their concussion symptoms. Also, being stuck at home while falling behind at school can trigger situational depression, which in turn magnifies the lingering effects of the brain injury.

As our understanding of brain injuries evolves, doctors will get better and better at treating concussions and similar injuries. However, some brain injuries are so severe that the victim never fully recovers.

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