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Physical Activity As An Effective Method Of Concussion Recovery In High School Athletes

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The human brain is a complex bundle of nerves and muscles that is the nucleus for all human functions. The ability to breathe, move, think, and live are direct results of the underlying function of the brain. Therefore, based upon the overall significance of the brain, it becomes imperative to protect it from all damage. A concussion, is an injury that at its simplest form is a contusion of the brain, is the main mechanism of injury to avoid. However, there are more than just physical concerns for the brain after sustaining a concussion. Disrupted blood flow, loss of memory, and psychological and attitude changes are just a few of the many adverse effects of sustaining a concussion. The thought process around analyzing and treating a concussion has changed rapidly through the years as new technology and findings have become available to health professionals. With the always growing access to this information, it becomes necessary to understand what the best methods of treatment for a concussion are to speed up the recovery process, especially when treating high school athletes. Physical activity during the early stages of concussion rehabilitation is the most effective method of treatment for a concussion in high school athletes.

The use of physical activity in the early stages of concussion rehabilitation helps to relieve post-concussion symptoms sooner in all people. When treating a high school athlete, it is important to know the best way to treat a concussion as their brain is still developing and needs to be treated carefully. For years, it was widely considered among health professionals that the physical damage to the brain was the main concern after a concussion, and it needed to heal itself through stimulus isolation. However, now medical professionals have found that the brain not only sustains physical damage from a concussion, but psychological as well, and this damage can be more concerning when looking at the still-developing brain of a high school athlete. As the Harvard Health Medical School Publishing states in their article, “Concussion: What is it?”, the potential mental manifestations of concussions, such as depression and anxiety, can cause a prolonged healing process for a high school athlete (Harvard). High school students face new daily challenges constantly from schoolwork and tough home lives to deciding what college to attend, the additional mental strain a concussion can add makes the recovery process more difficult. Therefore, with the inability to think clearly or positively, a people can see an influx in recovery rate time, from a couple of extra days to possibly weeks. However, according to Janelle Prince, Eric Schussler, and Ryan McCann of the “Human Kinetics Journal”, exercising within a patient’s symptom and exertion threshold post-concussion can help relieve symptoms sooner due to the release of endorphins (Prince 123). Endorphins, released by the brain when exercising, help relieve mental strain and lessen the effect of stress and depression. The more the person exercises, the more endorphins are released. Therefore, the implementation of physical activity in the early stages of recovery for a high school athlete can help relieve their symptoms at a more efficient rate than any other form of treatment. This is why physical activity is a much better recovery option than rest.

Early physical activity supports the transition back into daily exercise for high school athletes at a more efficient rate when treating a concussion. The main concern of any medical professional when treating a concussion is the patient’s symptoms. If they seem to be progressing well, the athlete will begin to integrate back into exercise, daily activities, and school. However, there is a possibility that the athlete’s symptoms may not change or could worsen, which is a concern and forces the need to change their treatment. New research has found that an increase in pain or no change when recovering from a concussion could be a direct result of inefficient movement and function of the brain and body during rehabilitation. This is explained by Russell E. Banks and Anthony P. Salvatore, authors of the article “Concussions: Activity Avoidance and Rest Recommendation” at the Thieme journal, that high amounts of pain from concussions are a direct result of the body and mind becoming deconditioned due to the excess time off from physical and mental activity (Banks 33). Due to the extended time off from physical and mental activity that some concussion treatments follow, the brain and body are not able to heal and recover properly. However, the implementation of physical activity, as Bank and Salvatore further explain, can assist in speeding up recovery as it will allow the brain and body to progress back to normal (Banks 34). By allowing the high school athlete to begin physical activity early in the treatment of the concussion, they statistically will recover faster, while also nurturing their brain and body back to full health during treatment.

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The integration of physical activity for high school athletes in the recovery phase of a concussion aids the improvement of both balance and blood flow. After sustaining a concussion, one can suffer from various symptoms, but most common are those of nausea, dizziness, headaches, and stimulus sensitivity. This is due to the athlete’s internal nervous system being marred after the concussion and needing the proper blood flow to reset. Even so, their blood flow is altered as well, and this can only be regulated through exercise. As Landon Lempke, Abbis Jaffri, and Nicholas Erdman describe in their article, “The Effects of Early Physical Activity Compared to Early Physical Rest on Concussion Symptoms”, concussions disrupt the proper flow of blood to the brain, slowing the brain’s ability to function and heal properly (Lempke et al. 104). Nevertheless, exercise can help increase the production of neurotrophic proteins in the brain and spinal cord, which help promote the survival of nerve cells and speed up recovery in the brain, allowing for faster healing. Additionally, cortical connectivity is the process of stimuli and neurons firing in the brain’s response to healing itself when injury and pain occur. Henceforth, this is why the use of exercise as a treatment method for a concussion will improve the balance and blood flow of the athlete as they exercise because of the brain’s ability to fire off neurons to speed up the healing process.

Physical activity as a method of treatment for concussions improves the psychological mindset and confidence in the rehabilitation process when treating high school athletes. One of the most effective ways to avoid the possible psychological side effects after sustaining a concussion is to increase activity, according to researchers. Amy M. Yorke, Sheila Littleton, Bara A. Alsalaheen, authors of the research report, “Concussion Attitudes and Beliefs, Knowledge, and Clinical Practice”, explain how modern researchers believe that certain psychological factors created after an injury can increase the perception of pain where which is not there (Yorke et al. 1025). They go on to say that this perception of pain comes from the lack of comparison in stimulus the brain and body have when you shelter it post-concussion. As discussed before, the psychological effects that a concussion can have on a teenager can be profound, but it should not be the defining factor when trying to recover from one. By allowing the athlete to recover through the use of exercise, which they are comfortable in, they will be better motivated to progress and not focus on possible or perceived pain. As a result of allowing high school athletes to get back to what feels familiar to them, which is movement and exercise, their mindset will be more optimistic. They will be in their natural setting of physical activity and will be less likely to perceive pain, therefore leading to an increase in their recovery time from the concussion.

There are, however, other methods of treatment for concussions in high school athletes, and a commonly used one is sole rest for both the brain and the body. Many health professionals who treat high school athletes would attest to the fact that rest overall will allow the body to heal itself on its own, lending itself to be the best treatment for a concussion. The article, “Benefits of Strict Rest After Acute Concussion: A Randomized Controlled Trial”, from the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, explains that by resting, the brain and body have time to try and subdue the symptoms and troubles one may have after sustaining a concussion (Thomas et al. 216). Therefore, the extended rest can ensure that the athlete does not endure more pressure or setbacks because of the excess of stimulus or concentration one may encounter with trying to still exercise or work post-concussion. Nevertheless, extensive rest, for both the body and the mind, have been found to prolong concussive symptoms due to the lack of stimulus and proper blood flow. This caused by the concussion and excessive rest, which is why it is a less optimal treatment for concussions when compared to early physical activity. The article, “Concussions: Activity Avoidance and Rest Recommendation”, references a study where 41 student-athletes and different rehabilitation methods for concussions were used to compare their effectiveness (Banks et al. 34). They found that when patients were given longer rest instead of earlier physical activity in the rehabilitation process, they were more likely to suffer prolonged symptoms of dizziness, headaches, lack of concentration, and depression. The body can normally heal itself with most injuries that it endures, but the mechanism of a concussion on the brain calls for further assistance as the irregularity in the blood flow can only be normalized through exercise. This, therefore, is why early physical activity is the most effective treatment for high school athletes recovering from a concussion.

When treating high school athletes for concussions, there is a sensitivity to the matter as medical professionals have the responsibility of caring for the still developing and fragile brain of the athlete. Considering how important it is for the whole body to function properly, it becomes vital to know how to treat a concussion most effectively. Though there may be some differing opinions regarding what the most appropriate treatment may be, early physical activity as a concussion treatment is considered to be the best option by most professionals. It is because of the wide-spread professional endorsement for physical activity that has led to its rise as the most effective treatment, not to mention the extensive research done to prove its effectiveness compared to other recovery methods. Hence, when treating a concussion in a high school athlete, the decision to implement early physical activity in the recovery phase would be the most appropriate choice in assisting the athlete back to normal at a more efficient rate.

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Physical Activity As An Effective Method Of Concussion Recovery In High School Athletes. (2021, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from
“Physical Activity As An Effective Method Of Concussion Recovery In High School Athletes.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2021,
Physical Activity As An Effective Method Of Concussion Recovery In High School Athletes. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 May 2023].
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