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Episode 70: Does Screen Time Impact Recovery From Concussions?

In doing some research on concussion recovery time, I came across an interesting article answering the question, “What is the effect of screen time in the first 48 hours after concussion on the duration of concussive symptoms?”

The article published in the America Medical Journal, Pediatrics entitled, Effect of Screen Time on Recovery From Concussion, November 2021 supports clinical recommendations to limit screen time in the acute period after concussion. However, the authors caution this is a preliminary report and further research needs to be conducted on this issue.

Participants in the study ranged in age from 12 to 25 and presented to the emergency department within 24 hours of sustaining a concussion.

The patients were either permitted to engage in screen time or asked to abstain from screen time for 48 hours after injury.

The researchers found those permitted to engage in screen time had a significantly longer median recovery time compared to those who were instructed to refrain from screen time use based upon a self-reported concussion recovery checklist used to gauge recovery.  

Children and adolescents aged 10 to 19 years have the highest incidence of concussion, and most medical guidelines for concussion management recommend a period of complete cognitive and physical rest for the first 24 to 48 hours after sustaining a concussion followed by a structured return to activity.

So where does viewing an electronic screen fall in instructions to limit cognitive rest?

And does taking away cell phones, other mobile devices, computers, and television screens contribute to issues of isolation which can potentially cause mental health issues such as anxiety and a heightened sense of illness?

And if so, for how long?

Return to learn, return to play, and limitations on activity both mental and physical during the period of concussion recovery all need further research including screen time limitations.  

The study authors recommended further clinical trials to consider this issue with large groups; in  specific activities such as video games; and in determining the extent of  daily time restrictions daily to determine whether there is a dose-dependent effect.

Diagnosing a concussion is the first step in recovery.  With other research finding US teenagers engage in more than 7 hours of screen time daily, not including time spent on schoolwork, the issues raised in this preliminary study warrant further investigation.

The instructions and advice given to children and parents following a concussion diagnosis are as important as the diagnosis itself.

Audio version

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Audio version

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