The Boston Globe / Barry Chin

Concussed Kids Heal Faster Without Homework, Video Games

A new study shows children recovering from a concussion should take a break from mental exertion like homework, video games, reading and texting.

By Matt Picht | January 6, 2014

Concussions in children are a painful experience, and it can take a while for the brain to fully heal after getting knocked around. One thing that might get in the way of a child's recovery? Homework.

According to a new study from Boston's Sports Concussion Clinic, concussed children who avoid activities that require a lot of mental exertion recovere significantly faster than those who don't. (Via Pediatrics)

"We're talking about spending a lot of time effectively in bed not doing much of anything. ... No cell phone, no texting, no reading, no video games, and — if there's a silver lining in all this, it's also no homework." (Via CBC)

The study looked at 335 participants with an average age of 15 years old, monitoring their mental activity as they recovered from a concussion. Researchers found patients who didn't limit their mental activities took about 100 days to recover, compared to an average recovery time of 20-50 days for those who set limits. (Via ESPN, CBS)

Although this is the first major study to link strenuous mental activity with reduced recovery times, an analyst told CTV brain specialists have known about the benefits of cognitive rest for years. 

"It's like any other injury. If a child were to sprain their ankle, you'd have them rest it. And here this is an injury to the brain, it makes sense that you rest it."

And a traumatic brain injury specialist told RedOrbit cognitive rest is already a standard recommendation among many experts. "Rest is the cornerstone of concussion therapy. ... I tell my patients, 'You have to slow down, but I don't want you to do nothing. I want you to find the right amount of mental activity for you.'"

This study isn't an excuse to miss more than a few days of homework — researchers didn't see much difference between limited mental work and no mental work. Study researcher Dr. Meehan told HealthDay "We recommend a period of near full mental rest after injury — approximately three to five days — followed by a gradual return to full levels of mental activity."

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday.

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