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Why Cognitive and Physical Rest After Concussion?


Sports concussion neuropsychologist Rosemarie Scolaro Moser, Ph. D. says  the reason a student-athlete needs to get cognitive and physical rest after a concussion is to reduce the work the injured brain has to do to allow it to heal. Just as athletes recovering from a concussion needs to get physical rest, they need to get cognitive (mental) rest as well.

Because a concussion impacts the brain's cognitive function (those that involve thinking, concentrating, learning and reasoning), not its structure, it makes sense that engaging in cognitive activities (in other words, doing something that requires thinking or paying attention ) is likely to make an athlete's concussion symptoms worse (although no link has been established to adverse long-term health effects)

Cognitive and physical rest means:

  1. Time off from school or work;
  2. No homework;
  3. No reading;
  4. No visually stimulating activities, such as computers, video games, texting or use of cell phones, and limited or no television;
  5. No exercise, athletics, chores that result in perspiration/exertion;
  6. No trips, social visits in or out of the home; and
  7. Increased rest and sleep.1

Such rest has been recommended despite the fact that, until June 2012, there was no empirical evidence to support such treatment. With the publication of Dr. Moser's new study in the Journal of Pediatrics,1 documenting the effectiveness of prescribed rest for the treatment of post-concussion symptoms and cognitive disfunction, whether the rest is applied in the early or prolonged stages of recovery, athletes, parents, and school and athletic officials who do not see the therapeutic value of missing school or sports, especially when weeks or months have passed since the injury, will, she hopes, now be less likely to resist or challenge such clinical judgment.

How long a period of cognitive and physical rest a student-athlete will need varies, which is why she recommends that concussion recovery be managed by a sports concussion specialist.

For more MomsTeam videos featuring Dr. Moser, click here.

1. Moser RS, Glatts C, Schatz P. Efficacy of Immediate and Delayed Cognitive and Physical Rest for Treatment of Sport-Related Concussion. J Pediatrics DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2012.04.012 (in press).

Updated June 18, 2012


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