This study aimed to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of active rehabilitation on concussion management. We also examined moderator variables that may contribute to differences across studies: symptom scale, physical activity type, time of injury to recruitment, and mechanism of injury.
The standardized effect size of physical activity on concussion management was computed for 23 studies (29 effect sizes). Effect sizes were coded as positive when studies reported an improvement in symptom scores, which was represented by a decrease in postconcussive symptom scores.
The overall effect size of physical activity on concussion recovery was large and positive (g = 1.03). Subthreshold aerobic activity provided the largest effect size (g = 1.71), whereas multimodal interventions had a moderate effect size (g = 0.70). All other moderator variables produced positive effect sizes ranging from g = 0.59 to g = 1.46.
This systematic review and meta-analysis demonstrates that current evidence supports the notion that physical activity is beneficial in decreasing postconcussive symptoms in both the acute and chronic phases after concussion. The results indicate that unimodal subthreshold aerobic activity may be the best course of action compared with multimodal interventions. Despite this growing body of evidence, additional research is needed to determine the optimal intensity, duration, and time to initiation of aerobic exercise after concussion.