Smartphone app helps teens recover from concussion

New digital health technologies are enabling healthcare providers to do their jobs more effectively while giving patients more control over their care.  Furthermore, sometimes the technology can be as simple as a smartphone and app.

According to new research, playing a specially designed smartphone app can help young people recover from a concussion.

Patients who suffer a concussion are often advised to avoid screen time on computers, televisions, tablets and smartphones. However, during a recent study, researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center actually encouraged teenagers to use an app designed to help them recover. The results were encouraging, the university says.

Among teens who didn’t use the app, only half reported improvements in symptoms while the other half said their symptoms got worse, and there was no improvement in optimism about their recovery. However, teens who did use the app all reported improvements in symptoms and optimism.

“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,” explained Lise Worthen-Chaudhari, MFA, lead author of the study. “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.”

The app, called SuperBetter, casts the patient as the hero in an ongoing game about their recovery, requiring them to battle foes like dizziness and headaches along the way.

“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.

She stressed that screen time should still be limited during recovery for concussions, but pointed out that cutting out all screen use can make patients – especially teenagers – feel isolated and depressed.

“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” she concluded.

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