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Study: Controlled exercise may help heal a concussion

Concussions and other brain injuries are an increasing source of concerns for parents of athletes in their teens and even younger. Too many are never diagnosed or reported, so their true frequency can't be known. Even CAT scans and MRIs sometimes don't detect whether a concussion has occurred.

However, the University of Winnipeg estimated that about 300,000 sports-related concussions occur in Canada each year. In the U.S., the National Institutes of Health estimates the same number for American athletes.

A concussion happens when the brain moves inside the skull because of a blow to the head. There is no real treatment for concussions except time. People who have suffered one have often been told to rest.

However, just across the border in New York at the University of Buffalo, researchers are looking at the possibility that exercise begun just days after someone suffers a concussion may in fact help brains return to normal. They're studying the effect of exercise on young people between 13 and 17 years old who have suffered a concussion. That's the age group whose recovery time is the longest.

The results won't be available until later in the year. However, one researcher says that when these young people engage in moderate exercise just days after a concussion, it "changed the blood flow in their brain from an abnormal pattern that we saw with concussion to a normal pattern that we saw with healthy people."

If it proves to be true that exercise can help speed up recovery from concussions, one major concern is that patients, particularly athletes, will push themselves too hard. That can exacerbate rather than reduce the symptoms. However, members of the medical community are anxious to find out if controlled exercise can indeed help concussion victims heal faster.

There is certainly far more awareness among parents, coaches and students about the dangers of concussions than there used to be. They're more likely to take kids out of a game or practice if there's concern about a potential concussion or other head injury and get them medical attention.

However, if your child suffers a head injury that you believe was the result of negligence by school or team officials, you may have legal recourse against them. Taking this action can help protect other student-athletes from suffering the same fate.

Source: CBS News, "Could exercise help teens recover from concussions?," Jan. 07, 2016

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