Exercise after Concussion: Is It Okay Now?
For years, experts in the field of concussion recommended rest until patients were symptom-free. Thank goodness times have changed! Gone are the days of sitting in a dark room and doing nothing about concussions.
A significant amount of emerging science in the concussion medical literature has demonstrated that non-contact fitness that does not provoke substantial symptoms is now not only safe to do but may likely help promote recovery.
The idea of exercising after a concussion is not entirely new.
The most recent consensus statement on Concussion In Sport, published in October of 2016, discusses that the first step of returning to school or play is not “rest” but rather “symptom-limited” activity or activities that don’t provoke symptoms (McCrory et al., 2016).
Recently, a group of researchers from Canada completed a “Meta-Analysis” or a review of multiple studies looking at one particular subject aspect of care; in this case, they reviewed studies about adolescents who exercised after they sustained a sport-related concussion. After reviewing seven randomized control trials that included a total of 326 participants, the researchers concluded that “symptom-limited aerobic exercise programs are beneficial in improving symptoms” in adolescents who suffer a concussion while playing sports (Langevin, 2020). That being said, we can likely apply this information to all types of concussions, not just those sustained while playing sports; more gold-standard research is still needed on this topic, though.
So, what does this information mean if you or someone you know has recently sustained a concussion?
At The UNTOLD Foundation, we strongly encourage you to find a health care provider specializing in concussion AND is up to date on the latest research and recommendations.
It is always best to discuss with your medical provider when it is safe for you to start fitness after a concussion or any injury!
If you cannot see your health care provider as quickly as you would like after you sustain a concussion, it is generally going to be safe to go on a short walk that does not provoke your symptoms in a significant way. Start out walking 10-15 minutes 1 to 2 times a day. You can slowly start to increase the amount of time you walk and your exertion as tolerated.
This blog post is not intended as a clinical practice guideline or legal standard of care and should not be interpreted as such. This post is only meant to provide updated information in the medical literature and not specific medical advice. Individuals seeking medical advice should contact their health care provider as individual treatment will depend on the facts and circumstances particular to each case.
If you think you or someone you know has sustained a concussion and need help finding the right care, visit Concussion Concierge at The Untold Foundation.
McCrory P, Meeuwisse W, Dvořák J, Aubry M, Bailes J, Broglio S, Cantu RC, Cassidy D, Echemendia RJ, Castellani RJ, Davis GA, Ellenbogen R, Emery C, Engebretsen L, Feddermann-Demont N, Giza CC, Guskiewicz KM, Herring S, Iverson GL, Johnston KM, Kissick J, Kutcher J, Leddy JJ, Maddocks D, Makdissi M, Manley GT, McCrea M, Meehan WP, Nagahiro S, Patricios J, Putukian M, Schneider KJ, Sills A, Tator CH, Turner M, Vos PE. Consensus statement on concussion in sport-the 5th international conference on concussion in sport held in Berlin, October 2016. Br J Sports Med. 2017 Jun;51(11):838-847. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-097699. Epub 2017 Apr 26. PMID: 28446457.
Langevin P, FrÉmont P, Fait P, DubÉ MO, Bertrand-Charette M, Roy JS. Aerobic Exercise for Sport-related Concussion: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2020 Dec;52(12):2491-2499. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002402. PMID: 32520867.