Tag Archives: return to learn

Study: Playing Smartphone App Actually Aids Concussion Recovery in Teens

Generally, after suffering a concussion, patients are encouraged to avoid reading, watching TV and using mobile devices to help their brains heal. But new research shows that teen-agers who used a mobile health app once a day in conjunction with medical care improved concussion symptoms and optimism more than with standard medical treatment alone.

Researchers from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center collaborated on the study with Jane McGonigal of the Institute for the Future, who developed the mobile health app called SuperBetter after she suffered a concussion.

Results of the study are published online in the journal Brain Injury.

The 19 teens who participated in the study received standard of care for concussion symptoms that persisted beyond 3 weeks after the head injury, and the experimental group also used the SuperBetter app as a gamified symptoms journal.

“We found that mobile apps incorporating social game mechanics and a heroic narrative can complement medical care to improve health among teenagers with unresolved concussion symptoms, said first author Lise Worthen-Chaudhari, a physical rehabilitation specialist who studies movement at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center’s Neurological Institute.

The American Academy of Neurology recommends limiting cognitive and physical effort and prohibiting sports involvement until a concussed individual is asymptomatic without using medication. However, this level of physical, cognitive and social inactivity represents a lifestyle change with its own risk factors, including social isolation, depression and increased incidence of suicidal ideology, the researchers noted.

In addition, cognitive rest often involves limiting screen stimulation associated with popular modes of interpersonal interaction, such as text messaging and social networking on digital platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and multiplayer video gaming, thereby blocking common avenues for social connection.

“Teens who’ve had a concussion are told not to use media or screens, and we wanted to test if it was possible for them to use screens just a little bit each day, and get the bang for the buck with that,” Worthen-Chaudhari said. “The app rewrites things you might be frustrated about as a personal, heroic narrative. So you might start out feeling ‘I’m frustrated. I can’t get rid of this headache,’ and then the app helps reframe that frustration to ‘I battled the headache bad guy today. And I feel good about that hard work’.”

Concussion symptoms can include a variety of complaints, including headaches, confusion, depression, sleep disturbance, fatigue, irritability, agitation, anxiety, dizziness, difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly, sensitivity to light and noise, and impaired cognitive function.

Within the SuperBetter app, symptoms were represented as bad guys such as headaches, dizziness or feeling confused, and medical recommendations were represented as power ups, including sleep, sunglasses or an academic concussion management plan. Participants invited allies to join their personal network in the app and they could view their in-app activity and could send resilience points, achievements, comments and personalized emails in response to activity.

“Since 2005, the rate of reported concussions in high school athletes has doubled, and youth are especially at risk,” said study collaborator Dr. Kelsey Logan, director of the division of sports medicine at Cincinnati Children’s. “Pairing the social, mobile app SuperBetter with traditional medical care appears to improve outcomes and optimism for youth with unresolved concussion symptoms. More study is needed to investigate ways that leveraging interactive media may complement medical care and promote health outcomes among youth with concussion and the general population.”

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Academic Dysfunction Among Injured Students Greatest Among Those with Concussions

According to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health, students with concussions show more academic dysfunction — or inability to perform at a normal academic level — one week after injury than students who experience extremity injuries.

Researchers from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry conducted a study from September 2013 through January 2015 of high school and college students who had visited three emergency departments in the Rochester, New York, area for a sports-related concussion or musculoskeletal extremity injury. Using telephone surveys, the researchers compared self-reported academic dysfunction between students with concussions and a comparison group of students with extremity injuries at 1 week and 1 month after injury.

Results showed that students with concussions had more academic dysfunction one week after injury than students who experience extremity injuries. Students with a concussion took longer to return to school post-injury and received more academic adjustments — such as extra time on tests and tutoring. The results also showed that female students and students with a history of two or more previous concussions were more susceptible to the effects of concussion. At one-month after injury, however, there were no observed differences between students with concussions and those with extremity injuries.

“Concussed students typically return to school within a week after injury, while their brains are likely still recovering,” the authors explain. “Our results emphasize the need for return-to-learn guidelines and academic adjustments based on gender and concussion history.”

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Return-to-learn Restrictions Picking up Steam in Proposed State Laws

As most who follow the concussion topic know, it is just as dangerous for a concussed athlete to return too early to the classroom as it is the playing field.eyes

Credit the state of Illinois with addressing this in a proposed law, which reads:

“Student-athletes who have sustained a concussion may need informal or formal accommodations, modifications of curriculum, and monitoring by medical or academic staff until the student is fully recovered. To that end, all schools are encouraged to establish a return-to-learn protocol that is based on peer-reviewed scientific evidence consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and conduct baseline testing for student-athletes.”

Both Virginia and Nebraska have also recognized this concern.

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