When someone suffers a concussion, the brain—like all parts of the body—needs time to heal, so the usual prescription is rest and non-stimulating activities. The problem with this treatment is patients’ understanding of how the brain recovers from a concussion. Concussions are not visible scars or burns; they are hidden injuries and a person’s recovery from one is not easily traceable. Without being able to plainly see the healing process, recovering from a concussion often feels fruitless and unnecessarily difficult.
In an effort to improve the understanding and awareness of concussion recovery, neuroscientists at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, have found a way to observe how the brain responds to concussion. The study comprised of monitoring how the brains of mice respond to a single concussion, to daily mild concussions for 30 days, and to weekly mild concussions for 30 weeks.
What Happens When Mice Receive Daily Mild Concussions?
In the mice who received daily mild concussions, the absence of rest between injuries led to semi-permanent brain damage, nerve cell death, and brain inflammation. Without time to recover from one mild concussion, one injury built on the previous one, causing greater damage than any major brain injury could have caused.
What Happens When Mice Receive Weekly Mild Concussions?
In the mice who received weekly mild concussions, the refractory period between the blows provided the brain with time to recover from each injury, leaving almost no evidence in the brain of there ever being any period of injury.
What Happens When Mice Receive One Major Concussion?
In the mice who suffered one major concussion, their brains experienced a temporary loss of 10 to 15 percent of brain activity. With ample time to recover and rest from the concussion, there was no brain damage, nerve cell death, or brain inflammation. With only a few days to one week of rest after the concussion event, the brain had returned to a normal level of brain function.
This study is most important for athletes who play in contact sports. High school and university students involved in contact sports and professional athletes are the most at risk for brain damage, as they are exposed to situations where there would be repeated blows to the body and the head during daily or weekly practices. Almost all people who suffer a single concussion recover completely when they allot time to recover, but for athletes in contact sports, repeated mild injuries and blows to the head can have a lasting effect on their lives.
Hein, A. (2016, February 05). First-of-its-kind study explains why rest is crucial after a concussion. Retrieved February 8, 2016, from http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/02/05/first-its-kind-study-explains-why-rest-is-crucial-after-concussion.html