Study Finds Optimal Physical Activity Levels for Recovery in Children and Teens Post-Concussion


Ottawa, Ontario — Monday February 26, 2024

After a concussion, returning to physical activity and getting back to school sooner is the best approach for a faster recovery, but exactly how much physical activity is optimal for children and youth? 

Findings from a recent CHEO Research Institute study published in JAMA Network Open indicate that that doing 4 hours 20 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA)over the course of the first week post-injury, and 9 hours 25 minutes of total MVPA over the course of the first two weeks post-injury, is associated with lower symptom burden at one week and two weeks post-injury.   

“Our research has consistently demonstrated that engaging in physical activity after a concussion contributes to the overall well-being of children and youth during their recovery process and reduce the chance of having longer terms symptoms after a concussion.” says Dr. Andrée-Anne Ledoux, Senior Scientist at CHEO. “However, this study indicates that too little or too much physical activity can increase symptom burden in the first week – so establishing these optimal amounts of MVPA is important to facilitate a safe and effective return to physical activity while minimizing the risk of exacerbating symptoms. 

This multicenter cohort study led by Drs. Ledoux and Roger Zemek analyzed data from a randomized clinical trial that was conducted at three Canadian pediatric emergency departments, including CHEO, with children and youth ages 10 to 18 with an acute concussion of less than 48 hours. 

The study discovered that too little or too much physical activity is associated with increased symptoms. Results showed that exceeding 6 hours 15 minutes of MVPA during the first week may have a negative impact on recovery. 

At two weeks post-concussion, a higher MVPA volume was associated with 48% reduced odds of persisting symptoms after concussion than lower MVPA volume. 

Globally, 50 to 60 million people are estimated to have a traumatic brain injury each year, with 75% to 90% of hospital cases being traumatic brain injuries or concussions. Approximately 30% to 35% of concussion cases will have persisting symptoms after concussion.

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