Development of Clinical Recommendations for Progressive Return to Activity After Military Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: Guidance for Rehabilitation Providers

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Abstract

Objective:

Previously published mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) management guidelines provide very general recommendations to return individuals with mTBI to activity. This lack of specific guidance creates variation in military rehabilitation. The Office of the Army Surgeon General in collaboration with the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, a component center of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, convened an expert working group to review the existing literature and propose clinical recommendations that standardize rehabilitation activity progression following mTBI.

Participants:

A Progressive Activity Working Group consisted of 11 Department of Defense representatives across all service branches, 7 Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury representatives, and 8 academic/research/civilian experts with experience assessing and treating individuals with mTBI for return to activity. An expert working group meeting included the Progressive Activity Working Group and 15 additional subject matter experts.

Methods:

In February 2012, the Progressive Activity Working Group was established to determine the need and purpose of the rehabilitation recommendations. Following literature review, a table was created on the basis of the progression from the Zurich consensus statement on concussion in sport. Issues were identified for discussion with a meeting of the larger expert group during a July 2012 conference. Following development of rehabilitation guidance, the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury coordinated a similar process for military primary care providers.

Results:

End products for rehabilitation and primary care providers include specific recommendations for return to activity after concussion. A 6-stage progression specifies activities in physical, cognitive, and balance/vestibular domains and allows for resumption of activity for those with low-level or preinjury symptom complaints.

Conclusions:

The clinical recommendations for progressive return to activity represent an important effort to standardize activity progression across functional domains and offer providers duty-specific activities to incorporate into intervention. Recommendations were released in January 2014.

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