The association has been shown to exist, but the mechanics behind it aren’t obvious.
The amount of time spent looking at a computer or video screen after suffering a concussion affects how long the symptoms of the concussion last.
The study was a formal clinical trial of 125 concussion patients which monitored video screen use for 48 hours after the injury. The study involved young adults (aged 12 to 25) with concussions coming to the emergency room at UMass Medical Center in Worchester, Massachusetts. The patients were assigned at random to test and control groups, with the test group ordered not to use any kind of screen for 48 hours after the injury. The control group could use screens as long as they did not worse their concussion symptoms.
Parents completed a Post Concussion Symptom Scale (PCSS) assessment at time of diagnosis and for 10 days following.
Did patients do what the doctor instructed? To some extent. The control group (no restriction on screen use) logged an average of 633 minutes of screen time in the 48 hours after the concussion. The test group logged an average of 130 minutes. Less, but definitely not zero.
Did it matter? Concussion symptoms for the control group lasted eight days; for the test group, 3.5 days. Big difference.
Screen time after a concussion matters. The next question is why?
- Theodore Macnow, Tess Curran, Courtney Tolliday, Kirsti Martin, Madeline McCarthy, Didem Ayturk, Kavita M. Babu, Rebekah Mannix. Effect of Screen Time on Recovery From Concussion. JAMA Pediatrics, 2021; DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.2782
- University of Massachusetts Medical School. “Limiting screen time for young adults after concussion results in shorter duration of symptoms.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 September 2021. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/09/210908180635.htm