The Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Postconcussion Symptoms in Patients With Persistent Symptoms: A Critically Appraised Topic

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Timothy A. Kulpa King’s College

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Jamie Mansell Temple University

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Anne Russ Temple University

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Ryan Tierney Temple University

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Context: Patients who do not fully recover from a concussion in 7–14 days may require an impairment-based rehabilitation program. Recent evidence indicates improved outcomes with active rehabilitation compared to passive physical and cognitive rest. Clinical Question: In patients with persistent symptoms (greater than 4 weeks) following concussion, how does aerobic exercise affect postconcussion symptoms? Clinical Bottom Line: There is moderate and sufficient SORT Level B evidence to support the inclusion of subsymptom threshold (SST) exercise in the multimodal treatment plan for patients suffering from persistent symptoms after concussion. All five included studies reported moderate to very large effects ranging from d = 0.72 to d = 10.64 in reducing symptoms after the implementation of SST aerobic exercise. Additionally, two studies also identified moderate and very large effects (d = 0.77, d = 2.56) favoring aerobic exercise over stretching interventions. These results indicate that this treatment has potential clinical utility and is a viable option to reduce symptoms in patients with postconcussion syndrome and persistent symptoms following concussion.

Kulpa is the clinical education coordinator and a clinical professor/athletic trainer in the Athletic Training Program in the Department of Sports Medicine, King's College, Wilkes-Barre, PA. Mansell, Russ, and Tierney are in the Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.

Kulpa (timothykulpa@kings.edu) is corresponding author.
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