A new study found that returning to normal activities and even light exercise can reduce concussion recovery times in children and young adults.

Researchers found that an early return to school for kids after suffering a concussion may shorten recovery times.

A study published in JAMA Network Open, looked at over 1,600 kids aged 5 to 18 in Canada and found that an early return to school was associated with a lower symptom burden 14 days post-injury in the 8 to 12 and 13 to 18-year old categories.

“We know that absence from school can be detrimental to youth in many ways and for many reasons,” said Christopher Vaughan, PsyD, neuropsychologist at Children’s National Hospital and the study’s lead author. “The results of this study found that, in general, an earlier return to school after a concussion was associated with better outcomes. This helps us feel reassured that returning to some normal activities after a concussion – like going to school – is ultimately beneficial.”

The findings suggest that there could be a mechanism of therapeutic benefit to an early return to school. The benefits could be due to socialization, reduced stress, maintaining a normal sleep schedule and returning to light-to-moderate physical activity sooner.

“Clinicians can now confidently inform families that missing at least some school after a concussion is common, often between 2 and 5 days, with older kids typically missing more school,” said Vaughan. “But the earlier a child can return to school with good symptom management strategies and with appropriate academic support, the better that we think that their recovery will be.”

Children’s National Hospital has been a leader in clinical services and research for youth with concussion through its Safe Concussion Outcome Recovery & Education (SCORE) Program.

Given the multitude of other factors that can be expected to influence when a child returns to school after a concussion – including injury severity, specific symptoms, and pre-injury factors – a large sample size and complex statistical analytic approach was required for the study.

Future randomized clinical trials and other research can help determine the best timing for a student to return to school after suffering a concussion.

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