Context: Previously, the most common treatment for a concussion was prolonged physical and cognitive rest. Recent research suggests that earlier physical activity (PA) may be better at promoting recovery. Research has not evaluated the relationship between free-living PA (e.g., walking) and symptom reporting or recovery duration.

Objective: To assess the relationship between free-living physical activity (PA) participation and two recovery outcomes in college-aged adults with a concussion.

Design: Prospective Cohort

Setting: Division 1 & 3 Universities

Participants: Thirty-two college-aged adults (68.8% female, age: 19.8±1.4) with a concussion.

Main Outcome Measures: Participants completed a post-concussion symptom evaluation at visits 1 (<72 hours from concussion) and 2 (8 days later). Between visits, participants' PA was monitored using an Actigraph GT9X Link PA monitor and expressed as total PA (counts per minute) and percent time of PA spent in moderate-to-vigorous intensity (%MVPA). Recovery time was the number of days from injury occurrence to medical clearance. Separate hierarchical multiple regressions evaluated the relationship between total PA and each recovery variable (visit 2 symptom severity, recovery time). Additionally, separate exploratory hierarchical multiple regressions evaluated the relationship between %MVPA and each recovery variable. Statistical significance was set a priori at p ≤ .05.

Results: Participants averaged 2446±441 counts per minute and spent 12.1±4.2% of their PA performing MVPA. Participants yielded median symptom severities of 28[24] and 2[8] for visit 1 and 2, respectively. Average recovery time was 14.7±7.5 days. Total PA did not significantly contribute to the model for visit 2 symptom severity (p=.122) or recovery time (p=.301). Similarly, %MVPA had little contribution to the model for visit 2 symptom severity (p=.358) or recovery time (p=.276).

Conclusion: Results suggest that free-living PA may not be enough to reduce symptoms or shorten recovery. Thus, clinicians may need to provide patients with more structured PA protocols mimicking previous research.

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Competing Interests

Conflicts of Interest: None

Author notes

Financial Disclosures: Dr. Petit received a Student Research Grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation as well as internal fellowship funding from the Department of Kinesiology at Michigan State University. For the remaining authors, no funding is declared