App may help recovery from concussion symptoms

If your teen has ever had a concussion, you know doctors usually recommend limited screen time. The idea is to keep their brains from becoming overstimulated.

A new approch, though, to recovereing from a concussion actually encourages teens to use an app on their smartphone --and apparently it's working.

Rachel Butler suffered a number of concussions over a five year span, and, though she was treated for them by a doctor, her symptoms never quite went away.

"I had bad headaches; I would sleep so much. I was really irritable all the time," she says.

But then, her doctor suggested using an app called SuperBetter. It's a game that makes the patient the hero in a personal recovery story, battling foes along the way like dizziness and headaches.

"Instead of, 'Uh, I'm so frustrated. I can't get rid of this headache," it rewrites it to say, 'Did you battle the headache bad guy today? And if so, how did you do?'"

Traditionally, concussion patients are advised to stay away from screens during recovery but that can often lead to isolation and depression, especially for teenagers. So researcher Lise Worthen-Chaudhari conducted a study at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center to see if limited exposure to the right content could help.

"We wanted to test, was it possible for them to use screens just a little bit each day and get the bang for the buck with that," she says. And the results are encouraging.

In teens treated for concussions who didn't use the app, only half reported improved symptoms. The other half said symptoms got worse and there was no improvement in optimism about recovery. But in teens who did use the app, all of them reported improvements in both symptoms and optimism.

"Just that flipping of, 'This is an obstacle, and it's your journey to overcome that obstacle,' seems to be enough," Worthen-Chaudhari says.

It was for Rachel, who says she felt less isolated and more motivated to get better.

"Having all the screens taken away was too much, but then when you added something in that was still beneficial, it helped a lot," she says.

The free app allows friend and family to join the game and play along with teens as they recover. This study looked at teens whose symptoms hadn't impreved at least three weeks after an injury. By the way this super better app is one of the most popluar mental health and wellness apps available. To learn more, search for the app SuperBetter in your app store.