Concussions can become serious if they are not treated properly. They can lead to serious brain damage and brain inflammation that can last for years after the initial concussion. Doctors often order concussion patients to rest for several days after the concussion. A recent study has shown that this order is the best advice since it promotes recovery. Researchers discovered this new information using animal models.
Neuroscientists from Georgetown University Medical Center found that rest for several days following a concussion is crucial for allowing the brain to “reset neutral networks and repair any short-term injury.” The study, which was conducted using mice, shows that repeated mild concussions with a rest period of a day or less between injuries, results in increased damage and can lead to brain inflammation.
The study, which is the first study on the effects of rest after a concussion, will be published next month in the March 2016 issue of the American Journal of Pathology. The study was created as a means to study and evaluate brain damage that occurs in injuries related to sports, the military, and even domestic abuse.
While the brain is shown to recover from a concussion after being given a few days to recover, it was also shown that the brain does not recover well when concussions are too frequent. The researchers created a mouse model of repetitive and extremely mild concussions. They then compared the brain’s response to one concussion to concussions received daily and weekly.
The model revealed that the mice that suffered from a single concussion temporarily lost 10-15 percent of the neuronal connections in their brains. They did not suffer any inflammation or cell death though. Within three days of resting, these neuronal connections were restored.
The mice that suffered daily concussions had a much longer recovery time: a week of rest between each concussion. The mice who suffered from mild concussions everyday for a month experienced inflammation and damage that remained apparent for a year after the last concussion.
Researchers hope that these findings will help to better protect the brain health of all people who suffer from concussions, especially athletes who play contact sports such as football.