Concussion: Here's Why Rest Is Critical After

First Posted: Feb 06, 2016 04:11 PM EST

Previous research shows that it's important to take several days of rest following a concussion for opitmal recovery. Now, new findings published in the The American Journal of Pathology based on animal research explain why.

Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center found that this is critical for the brain to reset neural networks and to repair any short-term injuries. When studying mice with a single injury who temporarily lost 10-15 percent of neuronal connections in their brains, no inflammation or cell death resulted and within three days of rest, connections were restored. However, in those who experienced daily concussions, the pattern was only restored when a week of rest was given between each insult.

"It is good news that the brain can recover from a hit if given enough time to rest and recover. But on the flip side, we find that the brain does not undertake this rebalancing when impacts come too close together," said the study's lead researcher, Mark P. Burns, PhD, assistant professor of neuroscience at GUMC and director of the Laboratory for Brain Injury and Dementia, in a news release.

When a mild concussion occurred every day for a month, however, the animals fared much worse. Both inflammation and damage to the brain's white matter resulted. "This damage became progressively worse for two months and remained apparent one year after the last impact," Burns added.

"The findings mirror what has been observed about such damage in humans years after a brain injury, especially among athletes," Burns said. "Studies have shown that almost all people with single concussions spontaneously recover, but athletes who play contact sports are much more susceptible to lasting brain damage. These findings help fill in the picture of how and when concussions and mild head trauma can lead to sustained brain damage."

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