Smartphone App Helps Teens Recover From Concussions, Study Suggests

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The standard advice for recovering from a concussion involves total brain rest, no television, computer or phone, not even a book or homework.

But now, doctors say there may be a better way, using a smartphone app.

Rachel Butler suffered a number of concussions over a five-year span, and though she was treated for them by a doctor, her symptoms never quite went away, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported.

“I had really bad headaches. I would sleep so much. I was really irritable all the time,” she said.

Then, her doctor suggested using a smartphone app called SuperBetter. It’s a game that makes the patient the hero in a personal recovery story, battling foes along the way, like dizziness and headaches.

“Instead of, ‘I’m so frustrated, I can’t get rid of this headache,’ it rewrites it to say, ‘Did you battle the headache bad-guy today? And if so, how did you do?’” explained researcher Lise Worthen-Chaudhari, of the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.

Traditionally, concussion patents are advised to stay away from screens during their recovery. But that can often lead to isolation and depression, especially for teenagers.

So researchers conducted a study at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center to see if limited exposure to the right content could help.

“We wanted to see, we wanted to test — was it possible for them to use screens just a little bit each day and get the bang for the buck with that,” she said.

In teens treated for concussions that did not use the app, only half reported improved symptoms. The other half said their symptoms got worse, and there was no improvement in optimism about recovery.

But in teens that did use the app, all of them reported improvements in both symptoms and optimism.

Butler said she felt less isolated and more motivated to get better.

“Having all the screens taken away was too much. But then when you added something in that was still beneficial, it helped a lot,” she said.

Other studies have started to show that complete brain rest may not be best path to concussion recovery.

This particular approach with a smartphone app may be especially useful for young people who really feel lost without their primary means of communication with their whole social network.

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