Active recovery from concussion


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Abstract

Purpose of reviewRecent studies are challenging the utility of prolonged rest as treatment for concussion and postconcussion syndrome (PCS). The purpose of this paper is to review the evidence for active recovery from concussion and PCS.Recent findingsEmerging data identify the central role of autonomic nervous system (ANS) dysfunction in concussion pathophysiology. The exercise intolerance demonstrated by athletes after sport-related concussion may be related to abnormal ANS regulation of cerebral blood flow. As aerobic exercise training improves ANS function, sub-symptom threshold exercise treatment is potentially therapeutic for concussion. A systematic assessment of exercise tolerance using the Buffalo Concussion Treadmill Test has been safely employed to prescribe a progressive, individualized subthreshold aerobic exercise treatment program that can return patients to sport and work. Multiple studies are demonstrating the efficacy of an active approach to concussion management.SummarySustained rest from all activities after concussion, so-called ‘cocoon therapy’, is not beneficial to recovery. Evidence supports the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of controlled sub-symptom threshold aerobic exercise treatment for PCS patients. Further study should determine the efficacy and optimal timing, dose, and duration of subthreshold aerobic exercise treatment acutely after concussion because early intervention has potential to prevent PCS.

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