Physical activity after a concussion may accelerate children's recovery times, according to a study headed by a doctor at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

Traditionally, the treatment for concussions was strict rest but the study, which looked at over 3,000 Canadian children between five and 18 who had sustained head trauma, found that those who started doing regular activity earlier had faster recovery times.

"We found that, after a concussion, children who had performed physical activity early were significantly less at risk of having prolonged symptoms when compared to children who strictly rested for that same period of time," said Roger Zemek in a news release, lead researcher and CHEO pediatric doctor. 

Concussions are very common in children and can cause symptoms such as nausea, concentration deficits, insomnia and emotional issues such as sadness or anger.

The side effects usually resolve themselves in a few weeks after the trauma, but can last for months. 

The study found that children who started doing light exercise after their injury recovered almost twice as fast as those who didn't.

High-contact activities still risky

According to the study, resting after a concussion actually leads to slower healing because of the mental effects of inactivity. Fatigue, depression and anxiety set in more quickly when the body has unhealthy amounts of rest. 

Despite the findings of the study, Zemek urges parents to not let their children roam free on the sports field too early. High-contact activities such as skiing, skating or football are still dangerous because of the risk of a more severe second concussion. 

"The next steps in our research will also need to determine the ideal timing, type and duration of physical activity following concussions," said Zemek. 

Further research is now being conducted to zero in on what types of activity are best for the brains of concussed youngsters.