Report: Days in a dark room no longer recommended treatment for youth sports-related concussions

Days or weeks in a dark room away from friends, schools and video games no longer is the recommended treatment for sports-related concussions in children and adolescents, according to new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Research, according to a , says it is better to reduce, but not eliminate, a return to some physical and cognitive activity after a concussion.

“Athletes absolutely need to take an immediate break from play after a concussion, but we find that, during the recovery process, it is best to encourage a reasonable amount of activity, such as brisk walking,” said Dr. Mark E. Halstead, an associate professor of pediatrics and of orthopedics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and a lead author of the report, in a. “Students shouldn’t need to take a prolonged amount of time away from school, though they should work with teachers on lessening the academic workload. These are individual decisions that families should discuss and evaluate with their child’s physician.”

Between 1.1 million and 1.9 million children and teens in the United States each year are treated for a concussion, though experts believe that number likely is much higher, according to the pediatrics group.

Most young athletes recover from symptoms within four weeks of their injury, according to the news release. Concussions can happen during play of any sport, but they are particularly common in boys‘ tackle football and girls‘ soccer.

The guidelines come, in part, because experts say young athletes may be less likely to report injury if they know they‘ll miss the rest of the season because of a concussion.

“While more families, physicians and coaches are aware of the health risks of a blow to the head – and more concussions are being reported – we remain concerned about players who try to tough it out without seeking help,” Dr. Halstead said in the release. “We know from surveys that many high school athletes will continue to play after a head injury out of fear they won’t be allowed back on the field.”

The new recommendations also reflect the latest research and guidance from other groups.

Earlier this year, the recommended that patients gradually return to non-sports activities after no more than two to three days of rest. A found that strict rest for adolescents after a concussion offered “no added benefit.”

While some families have been counseled to steer clear of electronics after a concussion, the pediatrics group also says that there is no study that shows screen time is harmful after a concussion.

“In fact, complete elimination of electronics may lead to a child’s feeling of social isolation, anxiety or depression,” according to the release.

But, as they make these latest recommendations – the first in eight years – the pediatrics group agrees that they don‘t have all of the answers yet. More research is needed on sports-related concussions, especially for middle schoolers and younger athletes, and the long-term effects of a single concussion or multiple concussions has yet to be been determined, the release says.

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