Concussion is common in contact sports, especially combat sports, and can result in an increased risk of musculoskeletal injury, as well as further concussion. The latter can have serious consequences.
Whilst concussions typically resolve in 1-2 weeks, in some instances symptoms can persist for much longer (Post Concussion Syndrome), in which case secondary effects such as headache, restlessness, difficulty sleeping, vestibular sensitivity and altered mood may occur. Therefore, strategies aimed at speeding up the recovery of persistent concussion symptoms are advantageous for athletes, coaches and medical professionals working in the field.
This symptomatic review looked at 12 studies examining the effect of sub-symptomatic threshold aerobic exercise (i.e. exercising at an intensity below that at which concussion symptoms worsened) on post concussion symptom recovery.
The studies demonstrated significant improvement in symptoms following an aerobic exercise program. Although the details of implementation differed, the most commonly used protocols involved 20 minutes bouts of aerobic exercise at 80% of the heart rate at which symptoms occurred.
It appears well established now that aerobic exercise is beneficial for concussion rehabilitation, future research should focus on the optimal dosage to maximise recovery.