Smartphone app helps teens recover from concussions by making symptoms the enemy
After a concussion, most people are told to avoid electronic devices like televisions or smartphones because it is believed that they can worsen the brain’s ability to heal. However, a new study published in the journal Brain Injury suggests using a specific smartphone app every day may actually be able to help people recover their cognitive abilities following a brain injury.
For the study, researchers from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center worked with Jane McGonigal of the Institute Future to test an app she developed after experiencing a concussion.
The team followed 19 teens as they received standard care for concussion symptoms that lasted more than three weeks after an injury. However, half of the teens were asked to use the SuperBetter app for 10 minutes a day to assess its effectiveness.
“Every single teenager who used the app in our study showed improvements from the time they started playing the game to the time they finished with us,” says lead author Lise Worthen-Chaudhari, MFA, in a press release.
“What’s more, the app not only helped them feel emotionally more optimistic about recovering from their concussions, but it also improved physical symptoms like headaches and blurred vision that can severely impact their quality of life.”
In comparison, only half of the teens who received only standard care reported improvements in symptoms over the course of the study. Some of this group even said their symptoms got worse.
“The key to the app is that it encourages patients to become active participants in their recovery and gives them specific tasks to accomplish in order to better manage their symptoms,” Worthen-Chaudhari said.
The app has users playing the role of a hero as they battle enemies that concussion patients are likely to be familiar with, like headaches or dizziness. It also aims to help keep teens with concussions socially connected by inviting friends and family to follow their recovery and offer encouragement.
“We’re still very cautious about limiting screen time during recovery for concussions, but cutting it out altogether can often make patients feel isolated and depressed, especially teenagers,” said Worthen-Chaudhari. “This app makes it possible for them to use screens just a little bit each day while assisting in their recovery from concussion at the same time.”