People who have been diagnosed with a concussion require both physical and cognitive rest. If they delay following their medical provider’s orders for such rest, it may prolong their recovery from a concussion. A private medical provider’s orders for avoidance of cognitive and physical activity and for a graduated return to activity should be followed, and those recovering from concussion should be monitored at home, school, and work. In addition, children and adolescents are at increased risk for delayed recovery and for severe, potentially permanent disability (e.g., early dementia, also known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy) or even death if they sustain another concussion before fully recovering from the first concussion. Therefore, it is imperative that an individual is completely recovered before fully resuming activities that may result in another concussion. Best practice warrants that, whenever there is a question of safety, a medical professional err on the side of caution and hold an athlete out for a game, the remainder of the season, or even a full year until he or she is fully recovered.
Cognitive rest requires that the individual who has suffered a concussion avoid participation in or exposure to activities that require concentration or mental stimulation. These include but are not limited to:
Playing computer or video games
Reading or writing
Studying or doing homework
Taking a test or completing significant projects
Listening to loud music
Being exposed to bright lights
Physical rest includes getting adequate sleep, taking frequent rest periods or naps, and avoiding physical activity that requires exertion. Some activities that should be avoided include but are not limited to:
Sports or activities that result in contact or collision and are high risk for re-injury
High-speed or intense exercise and sports
Any activity that results in increased heart rate or increased head pressure (e.g., straining or strength training)
It is extremely important for individuals who are recovering from a concussion to avoid these activities. Truly resting, both cognitively and physically, will allow the injury to heal and can better facilitate recovery.