Concussions from all causes, not only sport, are serious events for youth, producing a range of symptoms that may interfere with participation in home, school and community activities. Knowing when to return to activity after a concussion is a complicated and hard decision to make. In this study, 54 youth aged 8-18 years completed an exertion bicycle test during their recovery after concussive brain injury. The researchers found that, overall, both symptom severity and number of symptoms improved after exertion. The youth who improved the most were, on average, greater than three months post-concussion. Cognitive (difficulty concentrating and remembering) and emotional (sadness) symptoms showed the most improvement after exercise. This may suggest an important role for controlled exercise in the return to school process as well as return to sport.
It is difficult to determine the right amount of activity that will promote recovery and not cause symptoms for each individual child. Exertion testing can help families and health care professionals decide upon acceptable levels of exercise and readiness to start a return to activity protocol for youth with concussion.