The Effects of Moderate Exercise on Recovery from Concussion: A Preliminary Study

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2012 Jun;


Rieman, W. L., G. M. Berrios-Siervo and A. Maerlender.



Objective: To determine if daily moderate exercise delays recovery time in concussed college athletes. Participants and Methods: Concussed college athletes were consented and randomly assigned to a rest or exercise condition. Data collected included daily physical and cognitive symptoms, substance use, and perceived mental exertion. Continuous physical activity was obtained via a watch-like monitor worn by each participant for the duration of the study. The exercise condition included 20 minutes of daily moderate stationary bicycle riding and subsequent ratings of perceived physical exertion. ImPACT was used to evaluate cognitive abilities following injury and to determine recovery. Participants were considered recovered once physical and cognitive status returned to baseline. Results: There were five participants in each group (7 females, 3 males) from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Days to recovery were 14.8 for the rest group and 19.8 for the exercise group. No significant difference was found between the groups for mean recovery time (p=0.673). Physical exertion data were collected across groups for percent of sedentary (M=64.04), light (M=25.81), moderate (M=9.17), and vigorous (M=0.11) physical activity. Average maximum level of mental exertion was reported at a moderate level (M=4.71). Twenty percent reported binge drinking within five days prior to injury. Conclusions: Physical activity was successfully monitored using noninvasive methods. This is the first known concussion study to quantify mental exertion, which may also play a role in recovery time. Thus far, moderate physical exercise does not delay recovery time in concussed athletes, supporting the overall hypothesis. Further data regarding substance abuse increases our understanding of its impact on concussion recovery.

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