Physical Activity Level and Symptom Duration Are Not Associated After Concussion

Am J Sports Med. 2016 Apr;44(4):1040-6. doi: 10.1177/0363546515625045. Epub 2016 Feb 2.


Background: Physical rest after a concussion has been described as a key component in the management of the injury. Evidence supporting this recommendation, however, is limited.

Purpose: To examine the association between physical activity and symptom duration in a cohort of patients after a concussion.

Study design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 2.

Methods: This study included 364 patients who were diagnosed with a concussion, were seen by a physician within 3 weeks of injury, and completed a questionnaire at the initial clinic visit. The questionnaire assessed the postconcussion symptom scale (PCSS) score, previous number of concussions, presence of the loss of consciousness or amnesia at the time of injury, and prior treatment for headaches. During each follow-up clinic visit, physical activity level was self-reported. A Cox proportional hazard model was constructed to determine the association between symptom duration, initial clinic visit responses, and self-reported physical activity level after the injury.

Results: Study participants ranged in age from 8 to 27 years (mean age, 15.0 years) and had sustained a mean of 0.8 prior concussions; 222 patients (61%) were male. On initial examination, the mean PCSS score was 34.7. The mean symptom duration was 48.9 days after the injury. Among the variables included in the model, initial PCSS score and female sex were independently associated with symptom duration, while physical activity level after the injury was not. For participants aged between 13 and 18 years, however, higher levels of physical activity after the injury were associated with a shorter symptom duration.

Conclusion: Results from this study indicate that physical activity after the injury may not be universally detrimental to the recovery of concussion symptoms.

Keywords: brain concussion; mild traumatic brain injury; physical activity; rehabilitation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / complications
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome / etiology*
  • Self Report
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult