Can Exercise Benefit Concussion Recovery?

By: Matt Weik

When you think of concussions and other brain injuries, you generally think about contact sports like football to be the cause. While this is true, concussions can happen to anyone without having to get hit by a 285-pound linebacker.  A car accident, falling down and hitting your head, and several other “accidental” knocks to your head can cause a concussion.  For years research has been touting the best way to recover after such an injury is to completely rest until you are symptom-free.  A new study shows another way to potentially speed up the recovery process and minimize the side effects.

Contrary to popular belief, some are now suggesting that the best treatment for concussions is no longer rest. In fact, it’s actually the complete opposite.  New research is showing that exercise done within seven days of the injury lessens the symptoms associated with concussions, thus cutting the recovery time down.

A team of researchers worked with a group of children between the ages of 5 and 18 who had suffered a concussion and visited a hospital in Canada. Each was given a survey and asked after their concussion how quickly they resumed their normal physical activity and how they felt at that time.  58% of the children who were still suffering from the side effects resumed activity within the first week.  76% of the whole group that was surveyed went back to their normal physical activities within two weeks.  This goes against doctor’s recommendations but the findings were intriguing that they showed these individuals actually recovered faster and had less symptoms associated with concussions when they resumed activity before their symptoms subsided.


To be clear, the children didn’t resume activities that would put them at risk of re-injuring their brain again like going back to playing contact sports. One researcher from the study mentioned that he believes “light aerobic activity like walking, swimming or stationary cycling might emerge as a beneficial recommendation after further study.”

Obviously this is going to be a hot topic around contact sports and more research is going to be needed to further gain conclusive evidence of the study. Along with more studies on this topic, follow up studies will also need to be conducted to figure out the correct timing of how soon after a concussion a child can go back to competing in athletics and running around.  The group of researchers were quoted saying, “if earlier re-introduction of physical activities is, in fact, confirmed to be beneficial to recovery, this would have a significant impact on the well-being of millions of children and families worldwide and cause a major shift in concussion management.”

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

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