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It is hypothesized that cognitive activity following a concussion may potentially hinder patient recovery. While the recommendation of cognitive rest is often maintained and rationalized, a causal relationship between cognitive activity and symptom duration has yet to be established.
Does the implementation of cognitive rest as part of the postconcussion management plan reduce the number of days until the concussed adolescent patient is symptom free compared to a postconcussion management plan that does not incorporate cognitive rest?
A thorough literature search returned 7 possible studies; 5 studies met the inclusion criteria and were included. Three studies indicated that increased cognitive activity is associated with longer recovery from a concussion, and, therefore, supported the use of cognitive rest. One study indicated that the recommendation for cognitive rest was not significantly associated with time to concussion symptom resolution. One study indicated that strict rest, defined as 5 days of no school, work, or physical activity; might prolong symptom duration.
There is moderate evidence to support the prescription of moderate cognitive rest for concussed patients. Clinicians who intend on implementing cognitive rest in their concussion protocols should be aware of inconsistencies and be open-minded to alternative treatment progressions while taking into consideration each individual patient and maintaining adequate patient-centered care principles.
Grade B evidence exists that prescription of moderate cognitive rest for concussed patients may be beneficial as a supplement to physical rest as treatment for symptom reduction in adolescents.
The authors are with Athletic Training Programs, A.T. Still University, Mesa, AZ. McLeod and Welch Bacon are also with the School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona, A.T. Still University, Mesa, AZ.