Smartphone app helps teens with concussion recovery

Smartphone app helps teens with concussion recovery

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Lakota East student Rachel Butler uses the SuperBetter app to help her recover from a concussion. (CONTRIBUTED/THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY)

Concussion patients are routinely instructed to avoid screens, something that can make teenage patients feel socially isolated and depressed in addition to other symptoms.

But a new study has found using a specially designed app ​while under a doctor’s care could improve both symptoms and optimism in younger concussion patients.

Lakota East senior Rachel Butler was among the nearly 20 teens who participated in the study through The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center​ and ​Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

“(Participating in the study) let me have phone time,” Butler said. “Especially with how teens are with phones these days, having it taken away was hard.”

Using the SuperBetter app motivated her to more thoroughly follow recovery instructions, and she started seeing benefits a few weeks into the study, once checking in on the app became a habit.

Before she joined the study, Butler said that her doctor would “tell her what to do, and then I would go home and lay in bed.”

The app puts the user in the role of superhero – battling villainous symptoms like dizziness or headaches. Users can complete quests — like drinking more water or taking a walk — to build their power.

Each user’s personal recovery story can be shared with friends and family, adding a community aspect popular with many smartphone apps.

“I was really surprised with the results,” lead study author Lise Worthen-Chaudhari said. “Simply being able to use phones really changed optimism. The group that didn’t use the app was flat in optimism, they started out slightly pessimistic and stayed slightly pessimistic.”

All of the 19 teenagers who participated in the study had concussion symptoms that had persisted for more than three weeks and “were starting to get frustrated,” Worthen-Chaudhari said.

For the study, the Cincinnati Children’s physician treating the participants determined it would be safe for them to use their phones for 10 minutes a day, giving them enough time to check in on the app and reap its apparent benefits.

“(The app) helped me understand (my symptoms) more so that I wasn’t getting as frustrated with myself,” Butler said. “Before I didn’t understand why I wasn’t getting better, but using the app made helped me take control.”

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