Concussions and Screen Time, How Much and When?

Concussions and Screen Time, How Much and When?

Concussions are a serious injury that can have long-term effects on a person’s brain and overall health. One of the most important things to consider when recovering from a concussion is how much screen time you should have.

Screen time refers to the amount of time you spend looking at screens, including televisions, computers, tablets, and smartphones. It is important to limit your screen time after a concussion because the bright lights and constant movement on screens can exacerbate symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and fatigue.

Research on concussion recovery has exploded in the past decade. Our understanding of the intricate mechanisms that create symptoms have rapidly evolved. So too has our management of those suffering from what is deemed a mild Traumatic Brain Injury by the medical community.

Recently, screen time has come to the forefront of our enquirers, as studies show, especially amongst teens, that screen use can be up to nine hours daily. Screen time can increase the energy demand on the brain, as the visual system requires a lot of energy to process information.

In the past, medical professionals have advised against screen time, and there is evidence to support this. In 2020, a study done at the University of Massachusetts demonstrated that avoiding screen time for the first 48 hours helped speed recovery from initial concussion symptoms.

But what about after that? Should screen time still be avoided for those who have concussion symptoms after the first few days?  A new study just released by a new study by researchers at UBC and Simon Fraser University Suggests that some screen time can actually be helpful in concussion recovery.

How much screen time is appropriate?  Like many other aspects of concussion recovery, the answer is, “it depends”, however the evidence suggests that the best recovery occurred with moderate usage, or what is known as the “Goldilocks Effect”.

How do we get “just right” in terms of screen time?  Some early screen time may be acceptable if symptoms do not worsen. A gradual increase in screen time may be appropriate over the first 7-10 days, again, using symptoms to determine limits. There are several factors to consider, such as type of use, pacing of screen time, use of filters, and others. Keep in mind that each concussion can be very different, and recovery may be impacted by many things.

Concussions: Fact or Fiction courtesy of Bolton Physiotherapy Clinic (Read the caption)

Not sure what to do?

A thorough assessment of many systems can help determine guidelines for screen time use and progression. A therapist with specialized training can evaluate your symptoms, including physical testing, eye tracking and vestibular systems evaluation, to provide the best path forward for recovery.

Additionally, it is recommended to avoid screens for at least the first 24 hours after a concussion. This is because your brain needs time to heal and rest, and staring at screens can impede that process.

It is also important to note that the type of screen time can affect your recovery. For example, watching a fast-paced action movie or playing a fast-paced video game can be more stimulating and potentially harmful than reading a book or watching a slow-moving documentary.

Lastly, it is essential to listen to your body and pay attention to your symptoms. If you feel any discomfort or symptoms such as headaches or fatigue, it is best to stop using screens for a while and rest.

In conclusion, limiting your screen time after a concussion is essential for your recovery. Remember that your brain needs time to heal and rest, and screens can impede that process. Follow these guidelines and your recovery will be much smoother.

References:  

Macnow, Theodore et Al. JAMA paediatric

2021; 175(11):1124-1131. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.278

Cairncross,Molly et Al. Paediatrics (2022) 150 (5): e2022056835.

Frequently Asked Questions

No. In fact May concussions occur from jolts to the body (eg being hit in the chest/tackled), slips or falls, and motor vehicle accidents. A concussion is a disturbance in the brain caused by the sudden motion, or”jiggling” of the brain. This creates chemical imbalances that result in reduced energy and function.

No. Up to 90% of concussion injuries do not involve a loss of conciousness. Many experts have moved away from the old grading system, in which concussion was graded by loss of conciousness, as we have discovered that there is very poor correlation to “passing out” and the recovery time. Instead, newer models focus on the type of disturbance that results, ie physical, cognitive, emotional, or sleep, to assist in guiding rehabilitation efforts.

The short answer for this is, no. Even mild symptoms can become persistent if not handled well. The minimum time away from sport should be one week, more (at least two weeks) for youth and children. Returning to sport too soon can lead to much worse symptoms, and prolonged recovery. In some cases, Second Impact Syndrome can occur with a subsequent acute concussion overlapping a recovering brain. In rare but significant cases, death can occur due to a rapid, massive inflammation in the brain.  Any diagnosed concussion should be assessed by a health care provider who has training and experience in concussion management. 

 

 

About Lynn Jensen

Lynn is a licensed PT, who graduated from University of Toronto in 1985. She has extensive training in orthopaedics, manual therapy techniques, and ergonomics. Prior to acquiring Bolton Physiotherapy Clinic, Lynn worked as the Senior Hand Therapist for the WSIB, as well as Lead Pool Physiotherapist. She has worked with many sports teams, and provided fitness training for Provincial Level soccer players. Lynn is also a Qualified Sole Supports Orthotics Provider. She has achieved advanced qualifications in ergonomics, working with many companies on both rehabilitation and injury prevention. She is a Level 1 Trained Shift Concussion Management Provider. Lynn is also a certified EDGA Golf Disability Assessor.

Lynn has an alphabet soup of credentials behind her name. But that’s not what makes her so special. She has a passion for people and providing. Whether it’s for her patients or her staff, Lynn is constantly searching for ways to make people feel heard, seen, and appreciated. She knows that optimal well-being extends beyond the function of the body, which is why she’s always available for a chat when you need one.

Medical Disclaimer:

The information presented in this blog post is for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, treatment or a diagnosis, consult with a medical professional such as one suggested on this website. The Clinic Accelerator Inc. and the author of this page are not liable for the associated risks of using or acting upon the information contained in this article.

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