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Athletes Should Avoid Resting After Suffering Mild Concussions, Experts Advise

In the realm of sports medicine, experts are now advising athletes who have experienced mild concussions to avoid complete rest during their recovery process.

Captain Taison Barcellos Freda gets terrible concussion of the brain injury. Ukrainian Premier League.
Captain Taison Barcellos Freda gets terrible concussion of the brain injury. Ukrainian Premier League. Credit: Oleksandr Osipov/Shutterstock

The consensus statement issued by over 100 international researchers and clinicians recommends a new approach to the management of mild concussions in athletes. Contrary to previous guidance that advised complete rest until all symptoms are resolved, the statement suggests that athletes should engage in light physical and mental activities to aid their recovery.

The updated recommendations are based on extensive research, including ten systematic reviews of concussion-related evidence. The statement advises individuals to resume light-intensity physical activities, such as walking or stationary cycling, 24-48 hours after a concussion and gradually increase exercise intensity from there. However, if there is a significant increase in concussion symptoms, defined as a greater than two-point increase on a scale of 0 to 10, individuals should stop the activity.

Furthermore, the statement advises limiting screen time during the first 48 hours after a concussion, as excessive cognitive energy expenditure may impede recovery in the early stages. The consensus panel believes that controlled physical and cognitive activity, even aerobic exercise, can promote faster recovery and reduce the likelihood of persistent symptoms.

Previous guidance recommending complete rest until symptoms resolved was based on older evidence. The emergence of new research over the past few years has shown that complete rest may actually delay recovery. The new approach aims to strike a balance by encouraging controlled activity while avoiding activities that exceed mild exertion.

The statement also introduces new tools to help clinicians and sports organizations better identify and manage sports-related concussions both in the short and long term. It calls for the establishment of a working group to guide further research on the potential long-term effects of concussions on health.

These updated recommendations have implications for concussion management in elite and grassroots sports, potentially influencing policies and protocols to optimize the care of athletes who have experienced or are at risk of brain injuries. The consensus statement serves as a comprehensive guide based on the latest scientific evidence aimed at improving the overall well-being and recovery of athletes with concussions.

The consensus statement on concussion management goes beyond providing guidelines for athletes and clinicians. It highlights the importance of continuous research and ongoing evaluation of concussion-related issues to advance understanding further and improve long-term health outcomes.

Recognizing the need for additional research, the statement calls for the formation of a working group that will focus on investigating the potential long-term effects of concussions on health. This indicates a commitment to deepening our knowledge of concussions and their potential implications beyond the immediate recovery period.

By emphasizing the importance of controlled physical and cognitive activity, the statement challenges the notion that complete rest is the most effective approach. This shift in perspective has the potential to reshape concussion management protocols across various sports, from professional leagues to youth organizations. Implementing these updated recommendations could lead to a more proactive and individualized approach to concussion care, considering the specific needs and circumstances of each athlete.

Furthermore, the consensus statement acknowledges the role of technology and screen time in the recovery process. By suggesting a limit on screen time during the initial 48 hours after a concussion, the statement recognizes the potential cognitive strain associated with prolonged exposure to screens. This recommendation aligns with growing concerns about excessive screen time in general and underscores the need to prioritize cognitive rest in the early stages of recovery.

Ultimately, the consensus statement represents a significant step forward in the understanding and management of concussions. It reflects the collaborative efforts of researchers, clinicians, and sports organizations to evolve concussion protocols based on the best available evidence. By embracing a more nuanced and individualized approach to concussion care, the statement aims to optimize the recovery process and improve long-term outcomes for athletes at all levels of competition.

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