A randomized clinical trial involving 103 teenage athletes who sustained concussions while playing sports found that those who underwent a supervised, aerobic exercise program took significantly less time to recover compared to those who instead engaged in mild stretching.
Those in the exercise program took on average 13 days to recover, while those in the control group, who performed placebo-like stretching exercises (that would not substantially elevate heart rate), took 17 days. In addition, only two patients in the exercise program took longer than four weeks to recover, compared to seven patients in the control group.
The treatment began within the first week of a concussion in adolescents, after a few days of rest. Each exercise program was individually tailored, on the basis of their performance on the Buffalo Concussion Treadmill Test, and each participant was given a heart rate monitor to ensure they didn’t exceed the given threshold. The assigned exercise took about 20 minutes each day.
The exercise “dose” was evaluated weekly, and increased as the patient’s condition improved.
Patients were also told to avoid contact sports, gym class, or team practice, and excessive use of electronic devices, since that can also aggravate symptoms.
Adolescents typically take the longest to recover from concussion.
The findings directly contradict the conventional approach to concussion, which often consists of nearly total rest, eliminating most physical and mental activities, including schoolwork.