When your child suffers a concussion, it can be a very scary experience. The good news is most children recover without any further symptoms in a few weeks. But first, they need rest—both physical rest and brain rest.

Physical and cognitive rest is important for children who have had a concussion. Brain Rest and Concussion Recovery for Children

Concussions affect school performance

A new study indicates that this brain rest is especially important for children in school. The study from Pediatrics surveyed 349 students ages 5 to 18 who'd had a concussion within the previous 4 weeks, plus their parents.1 Children and parents alike were asked about academic concerns or problems following the concussion. The children were given several memory and concentration tests, and they were categorized as either recovered or not yet recovered based on lingering symptoms.

The results revealed that 88% of children who had not yet recovered reported that symptoms like trouble concentrating, headaches, and fatigue were interfering with their experience at school, compared with only 38% in the recovered group.

In addition, a majority of the not-yet-recovered children were having trouble with their academic work, such as needing extra time for homework, having difficulty studying or taking notes, and being concerned that their grades were suffering as a result.

How children can get brain rest

Brain rest is very important for those recovering from a concussion, particularly for children, whose brains are still developing. Brain rest involves avoiding any cognitive activity that taxes the brain’s metabolism. Research has shown that proper brain rest can help children recover from a concussion quicker, perhaps as much as 50% quicker.2

So how can children practice brain rest? Academically, children may need some time off school, then a gradual return to school that may include half days or shortened class periods.

It’s not just schoolwork that can tax a child’s brain, however. Video games and smartphone apps can require reaction time or memory skills, which are very demanding on a recovering brain.

Finding a balance between rest and activity

However, as symptoms start to improve, it’s important for children to gradually return to both physical and cognitive activity. To find the right balance at school, parents should work with the school nurse or athletic trainer and the child’s teachers to make schoolwork accommodations, based on that child’s particular symptoms.

School adjustments while symptoms last may include less homework, more time to complete work, or postponed deadlines or tests.

When a child has a concussion, it’s important that all the adults in his or her life—parents, teachers, coaches, counselors, even babysitters—are aware of the concussion, the symptoms it’s causing, and how they can accommodate those symptoms, if needed. This is the best recipe for a child’s safe and successful recovery from concussion.

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References:

  1. Academic Effects of Concussion in Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics. 2015 May 11. pii: peds.2014-3434. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Brown NJ, Mannix RC, O'brien MJ, Gostine D, Collins MW, Meehan WP. Effect of cognitive activity level on duration of post-concussion symptoms. Pediatrics. 2014;133(2):e299-304, as cited in Straus LB.