Although vigorous mental exertion has a negative effect on recovery after a concussion, more moderate levels of mental exertion do not appear to prolong recovery substantially.
Researchers who studied young people after they had suffered a concussion concluded that they heal better if they take a full mental rest of approximately three to five days after the injury, followed by a gradual return to full levels of mental activity.
The study was published online in Pediatrics. Investigators Naomi J. Brown, MD, and colleagues said their results supported the use of cognitive rest, and adds to the current consensus opinion.
The prospective cohort study of patients (mean age, 15) who presented to a Sports Concussion Clinic within three weeks of injury between October 2009 and July 2011 found that increased cognitive activity was associated with longer recovery from concussion. The mean Post-Concussion Symptom Scale score at the initial visit was 30 (standard deviation [SD], 26). Overall, mean duration of symptoms was 43 days (SD, 53). Of all the variables assessed, only total symptom burden at the initial visit and cognitive activity level were independently associated with duration of symptoms.
Mental activity was self-reported as complete mental rest, minimal mental activity (no reading or homework and less than 20 minutes of online activity and video games each day), moderate mental activity (reading fewer than 10 pages per day and spending less than an hour on homework, online activity and video games), and significant mental activity (reading less and doing less homework than usual), or full mental activity.
The researchers said that although vigorous mental exertion has a negative effect on recovery, more moderate levels of mental exertion do not appear to prolong recovery substantially.