COLUMBUS – Researchers from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center collaborated on the study with Jane McGonigal of the Institute for the Future who developed the mobile health app, SuperBetter after she suffered a concussion.
Results of the study are published online in the journal Brain Injury.
The 19 teens who participated in the study received standard of care for concussion symptoms that persisted beyond 3 weeks after the head injury, and the experimental group also used the SuperBetter app as a gamified symptoms journal.
“We found that mobile apps incorporating social game mechanics and a heroic narrative can complement medical care to improve health among teenagers with unresolved concussion symptoms, said first author Lise Worthen-Chaudhari, a physical rehabilitation specialist who studies movement at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center’s Neurological Institute.
The American Academy of Neurology recommends limiting cognitive and physical effort and prohibiting sports involvement until a concussed individual is asymptomatic without using medication. However, this level of physical, cognitive and social inactivity represents a lifestyle change with its own risk factors, including social isolation, depression and increased incidence of suicidal ideology, the researchers noted.
In addition, cognitive rest often involves limiting screen stimulation associated with popular modes of interpersonal interaction, such as text messaging and social networking on digital platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and multiplayer video gaming, thereby blocking common avenues for social connection.
“Teens who've had a concussion are told not to use media or screens, and we wanted to test if it was possible for them to use screens just a little bit each day, and get the bang for the buck with that,” Worthen-Chaudhari said. “The app rewrites things you might be frustrated about as a personal, heroic narrative. So you might start out feeling ‘I’m frustrated. I can’t get rid of this headache,’ and then the app helps reframe that frustration to ‘I battled the headache bad guy today. And I feel good about that hard work’.”
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