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 called SuperBetter after she suffered a concussion.
Results of the study are published online in the journal Brain Injury. But the kicker is this: generally speaking concussion patients are discouraged from activities like using phones, computers or watching television and even reading. But new research shows that teenagers who used a mobile health app once a day in conjunction with medical care improved concussion symptoms and optimism more than with standard medical treatment alone.
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.
The 19 teens who participated in the study received standard of care for concussion symptoms that persisted beyond three weeks after the head injury, and the experimental group also used the SuperBetter app as a gamified symptoms journal.
Within the SuperBetter app, symptoms were represented as bad guys such as headaches, dizziness or feeling confused, and medical recommendations were represented as power ups, including sleep, sunglasses or an academic concussion management plan. Participants invited allies to join their personal network in the app and they could view their in-app activity and could send resilience points, achievements, comments and personalized emails in response to activity.