Adolescents who participate in organized sports are thought to be healthier, happier and to even perform better in school. Unfortunately, recent research on the long-term effects of traumatic brain injury has many parents wondering if the supposed benefits of youth sports outweigh the potential risks.
Concussions are particularly dire in adolescents since their brains are still developing, and they typically take the longest time to recover. The problem, researchers say, is that there is no proven treatment.
However, a new study published today in JAMA Pediatrics — which is being hailed as “landmark” — found that adolescent athletes with sustained concussions recovered more quickly under a regimen of supervised aerobic exercise. This is the first randomized trial on humans to pinpoint an effective treatment for sport-related concussions.
Researchers at the University of Buffalo followed 103 male and female subjects (almost evenly split) ages 13 to 18 — all of whom had been diagnosed with a concussion within 10 days of the trial’s beginning. While half the group engaged in simple stretching exercises, the other performed “sub-symptom threshold” aerobic exercise, which would not exacerbate their symptoms. This was measured by first giving every participant a sort of fitness test which assessed how much physical activity the patient could handle without worsening symptoms. The aerobic group was then prescribed 80 percent of that threshold.
Subjects performed their workouts or stretches for about 20 minutes per day; they also refrained from sports and gym class, and were told to avoid electronics, which can provoke concussive symptoms.
The scientists found that participants who followed the aerobic workouts took, on average, about 13 days to recover, while the stretching group took about 17 days. Furthermore, those in the workout group were less likely to exceed four weeks of recovery time.
In a statement, Barry S. Willer, Ph.D., senior author and professor of psychiatry, says, “Until now, nothing else has been proven in any way effective for treating concussion. This is the best evidence so far for a treatment that works.”
These findings, the researchers say, contradict the typical concussion prescription of total body and brain rest, asking kids to cease all physical activity and even take a break from schoolwork — which, they note, often leads to worsened symptoms. Researchers soon hope to test this new methodology on adults.
Source: New York Post