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Poor sleep can prolong recovery after sports-related concussions

According to a new study from researchers at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, young athletes who have poor sleep quality after sustaining a concussion may need more than 30 days to heal their brain injury, whereas athletes with good sleep quality may only need two weeks to make a full recovery.

To obtain their findings, researchers analyzed 356 young athlete concussions cases from four different outpatient concussion treatment clinics in the north Texas area between October 2015 and June 2017. In all 356 cases, concussed patients were under the age of 19 and involved in sports.

Researchers asked each concussed young athlete to fill out a questionnaire pertaining to their sleep habits and quality. The questionnaire results clearly showed that those who had better sleep quality often healed much quicker than their counterparts.

Jane S. Chung, MD, FAAP, the primary author of the abstract and a sports medicine physician at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, said, “The importance of good sleep quality is often underestimated in young athletes. Sleep is not only important for physical, mental, and cognitive well-being, but also seems to play a pivotal role in the recovery of the brain following a sport-related concussion.”

Furthermore, Chung and her team found that 73% of the athletes surveyed had good sleep quality whereas 27% had poor sleep quality. They also found that girls exhibited worse sleep quality post-concussion more often than boys.

Overall, those with poor sleep quality reported two times greater symptom severity at their first clinic appointment and three times greater symptom severity at their 3-month-follow up appointment.

“Pediatricians and health care providers involved in the care of young athletes should educate and emphasize the importance of good sleep quality and sleep hygiene for optimal overall health, performance, and recovery,” Dr. Chung continued. “Parents can take small steps to help improve their child’s sleep quality by establishing a regular sleep schedule, avoiding electronics at least one hour prior to bedtime, and encouraging them to get at least 8-10 hours of sleep each night.”

The hope is that these findings will encourage clinicians to emphasize the importance of a good night’s sleep to their concussion patients. Better sleep means faster recovery.

The study abstract, “Association Between Sleep Quality and Recovery Following a Sport-Related Concussion in the Pediatric Population,” will be presented on November 3rd at Orlando, Florida’s American Academy of Pediatrics 2018 National Conference & Exhibition.

By Olivia Harvey, Staff Writer

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