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A new course for concussions


4 Star

A new course for concussions

Our Review Summary

This engaging article highlights the serious problem of concussions in children and how to treat them. The issue is presented from a mother’s point of view, with input from the treating physician and other experts. The symptoms, treatment, and outcome are all provided, making for a nice story. We offer just a few suggestions for what might have made the story even better.


Why This Matters

Concussions are a very common injury in children, and are most likely underreported. Though sports-related concussions get most of the attention (and they occur in all sports), any activity that can shake the brain can cause concussion. There are clear guidelines on treatment of concussions, with benchmarks for allowing a child to return to various activities such as school work and sports. It’s important to recognize that a concussion can affect a student’s ability to learn, as well as his or her physical and mental health. This story reports on the theory that it is crucial for a student with symptoms of a concussion to “rest” the brain – that is, to not engage in activities that require concentration and attention (take a exam, play video games, text, drive a car), and instead use the energy for the brain to functionally recover.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

As one of the experts in the story points out, “the treatment needs to be individualized.”  All therapies have costs.  Some stab at estimating a range of time/costs could have been made. With the story discussing hospitals adopting protocols, it certainly seems a cost could be identified for a protocol.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not present quantitative evidence, but rather presents qualitative viewpoints of experts.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?


The story illustrates how hard it can be for a parent to enforce cognitive rest.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?


Mixed bag.  At one point, the story labels cognitive rest as an “extreme response” – which may strike some as extreme editorializing.  But then the story goes on to explain that cognitive rest has been “gaining traction in the last two to four years” with the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness calling it “the mainstay of management” and a 2008 consensus statement on concussion in sport supporting the idea. It’s also endorsed by the CDC’s “Heads Up to Schools: Know Your Concussion ABCs” materials. Because the story arguably devotes more space to a discussion of the evidence than most stories, we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No disease mongering in the story.

If anything, the story missed a chance to explain that according to the CDC, almost half a million emergency department visits for concussions and other traumatic brain injuries are made annually by children aged 0 to 14 years.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


The story cites several sources and provides their affiliations.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


The treatment is put in context with other treatments.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story refers to the growing use of cognitive rest.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


Mixed bag. Although the headline calls it “a new course” and the story at one point calls it a “new approach,” the story also explains that cognitive rest has been “gaining traction in the last two to four years” – making clear that it’s not a brand new concept. We’ll give it the benefit of the doubt on this criterion.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


The story clearly does not rely on a press release.

Total Score: 8 of 10 Satisfactory


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