Ohio State Study Shows Mobile App Helps Teens With Concussions

Aug 16, 2017

Research from Cincinnati Children's Medical Center and the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center shows teens who used a mobile health app once a day in conjunction with medical care to treat their concussion got better faster than if they did with standard treatment alone.

Jane McGonigal, Director of Game Research and Development at the Institute for the Future, developed the app SuperBetter after she suffered a concussion. She originally designed the app to promote principles of positive psychology, social interaction and gameful design.

"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 Lise Worthen-Chaudhari, the study’s author.

“Instead of ‘Uh, I’m so frustrated I can’t get rid of this headache,’ it rewrites it to, ‘Did you battle the headache bad guy today, and if so, how did you do?’” she says.

The study, published online in the journal Brain Injury, says the number of concussions reported by high school athletes has doubled since 2005.

Dr. Kelsey Logan, director of the Division of Sports Medicine at Cincinnati Children's, says screen time should be limited but teenagers are going to use social media.

"We wanted to actually see if we could leverage that to help in their concussion care,” Logan said.

Logan says she wasn't asking participants to be on their phone for hours, just five or 10 minutes – long enough for them to log their symptoms and go through "bad guys" like concentration problems and depression. The app also helped teens learn how to address those issues.

“The social support aspect, the reminder of how they can cope with their injury and just feel more optimistic toward their recovery, is probably helping here,” Logan said.