Grool AM, Aglipay M, Momoli F, Meehan WP 3rd, Freedman SB, Yeates KO, Gravel J, Gagnon I, Boutis K, Meeuwisse W, Barrowman N, Ledoux AA, Osmond MH, Zemek R; Pediatric Emergency Research Canada (PERC) Concussion Team.. Association Between Early Participation in Physical Activity Following Acute Concussion and Persistent Postconcussive Symptoms in Children and Adolescents. JAMA. 2016 Dec 20;316(23):2504-2514.
Although concussion treatment guidelines advocate rest in the immediate postinjury period until symptoms resolve, no clear evidence has determined that avoiding physical activity expedites recovery.
To investigate the association between participation in physical activity within 7 days postinjury and incidence of persistent postconcussive symptoms (PPCS).
DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS:
Prospective, multicenter cohort study (August 2013-June 2015) of 3063 children and adolescents aged 5.00-17.99 years with acute concussion from 9 Pediatric Emergency Research Canada network emergency departments (EDs).
Early physical activity participation within 7 days postinjury.
MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES:
Physical activity participation and postconcussive symptom severity were rated using standardized questionnaires in the ED and at days 7 and 28 postinjury. PPCS (≥3 new or worsening symptoms on the Post-Concussion Symptom Inventory) was assessed at 28 days postenrollment. Early physical activity and PPCS relationships were examined by unadjusted analysis, 1:1 propensity score matching, and inverse probability of treatment weighting (IPTW). Sensitivity analyses examined patients (≥3 symptoms) at day 7.
Among 2413 participants who completed the primary outcome and exposure, (mean [SD] age, 11.77 [3.35] years; 1205 [39.3%] females), PPCS at 28 days occurred in 733 (30.4%); 1677 (69.5%) participated in early physical activity including light aerobic exercise (n = 795 [32.9%]), sport-specific exercise (n = 214 [8.9%]), noncontact drills (n = 143 [5.9%]), full-contact practice (n = 106 [4.4%]), or full competition (n = 419 [17.4%]), whereas 736 (30.5%) had no physical activity. On unadjusted analysis, early physical activity participants had lower risk of PPCS than those with no physical activity (24.6% vs 43.5%; Absolute risk difference [ARD], 18.9% [95% CI,14.7%-23.0%]). Early physical activity was associated with lower PPCS risk on propensity score matching (n = 1108 [28.7% for early physical activity vs 40.1% for no physical activity]; ARD, 11.4% [95% CI, 5.8%-16.9%]) and on inverse probability of treatment weighting analysis (n = 2099; relative risk [RR], 0.74 [95% CI, 0.65-0.84]; ARD, 9.7% [95% CI, 5.7%-13.7%]). Among only patients symptomatic at day 7 (n = 803) compared with those who reported no physical activity (n = 584; PPCS, 52.9%), PPCS rates were lower for participants of light aerobic activity (n = 494 [46.4%]; ARD, 6.5% [95% CI, 5.7%-12.5%]), moderate activity (n = 176 [38.6%]; ARD, 14.3% [95% CI, 5.9%-22.2%]), and full-contact activity (n = 133 [36.1%]; ARD, 16.8% [95% CI, 7.5%-25.5%]). No significant group difference was observed on propensity-matched analysis of this subgroup (n = 776 [47.2% vs 51.5%]; ARD, 4.4% [95% CI, -2.6% to 11.3%]).
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE:
Among participants aged 5 to 18 years with acute concussion, physical activity within 7 days of acute injury compared with no physical activity was associated with reduced risk of PPCS at 28 days. A well-designed randomized clinical trial is needed to determine the benefits of early physical activity following concussion.
Current pediatric concussion guidelines, including the most recent version of the AAN's sports concussion guideline released in 2013, recommend a period of physical and cognitive rest following a concussion until post-concussive symptoms like dizziness, fatigue, headache, and irritability have resolved. Children and young adults who have sustained a concussion should not return to play until they are asymptomatic, the guidelines state, and they should increase their engagement in physical activity only if their symptoms do not worsen.
But limited evidence exists that this protocol results in positive long-term outcomes, the current study authors noted. Additionally, they pointed out, young athletes who rest for an extended period may be unnecessarily deprived of physical activity's benefits on the growing body, including its positive effects on body composition, skeletal health, and cardiorespiratory fitness. Too much rest may also lead to secondary symptoms like depression, anxiety, social isolation, and physiological deconditioning.
“We may need to reconsider the current recommendations for strict conservative rest until patients are symptom-free,” study author Roger Zemek, MD, PhD, associate professor and director of research at the University of Ottawa in Canada, said in an interview with Neurology Today. “Patients should be encouraged to participate in some form of active physical rehabilitation following concussion as long as the activity does not put them at risk of re-injury.”