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Evidence grows showing benefits of post-concussion exercise but causation has yet to be proven, UB expert says

Release Date: December 22, 2016

John J. Leddy and colleagues at UB are conducting the first randomized, controlled clinical trial of individualized exercise for treating sport-related concussions in adolescents. 

“The study published this week tells us that strict rest after a concussion is not the way to go. What it doesn't tell us is whether exercise is definitely better. ”
John J. Leddy, MD, Medical director, UB Concussion Management Clinic
Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

BUFFALO, N.Y. — University at Buffalo researchers say that an observational study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association is part of a growing body of evidence suggesting that long periods of rest may not help concussion patients recover. The research shows an association between fewer post-concussion symptoms and early post-concussion physical activity.

The UB researchers first reported in 2010 that sub-threshold physical activity was therapeutic in athletes and non-athletes who had a concussion, but they note that the new study by Canadian researchers still doesn’t prove causation.

“The study published this week tells us that strict rest after a concussion is not the way to go,” said John J. Leddy, MD, medical director of the UB Concussion Management Clinic, a physician with UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, and clinical professor in the Department of Orthopaedics in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB. “What it doesn’t tell us is whether exercise is definitely better.”

Because the new study is observational, it doesn’t control for possible confounding factors as would be the case in a randomized, controlled clinical trial, in which participants are randomly assigned to an intervention or a control group, he added.

That’s the goal of a study Leddy is currently conducting; it is the first randomized, controlled clinical trial of individualized exercise for the treatment of sport-related concussions in adolescents within the first week after injury. Leddy is conducting it with his co-investigator Barry S. Willer, PhD, director of research for the UB Concussion Management Clinic and professor in the Department of Psychiatry.

“Our study hypothesis is that early, controlled exercise below the threshold where symptoms are exacerbated will speed recovery from concussion,” said Leddy. “We’ve always maintained that the level of physical activity after a concussion should be individualized and should always stay below the level where it would exacerbate symptoms.”

Funded by the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation and the Program for Understanding Childhood Concussion and Stroke, it is being conducted by physicians at UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine,  part of the practice plan of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB and through the University of Manitoba in Canada.

Results of the study, to be completed on approximately 100 adolescents who have experienced a concussion while playing a sport, are expected toward the end of 2017.

Earlier this year, the National Institutes of Health also funded Leddy and Willer to investigate the physiological mechanisms involved in adolescents who experience a concussion in order to better understand and treat the condition.

Media Contact Information

Ellen Goldbaum
News Content Manager
Medicine
Tel: 716-645-4605
goldbaum@buffalo.edu
Twitter: @UBmednews