Severe pediatric brain injury means less efficient cardiac fitness

Child in Hospital Bed

The low tolerance for exercise that is a common complaint after traumatic brain injury is typically justified by motor impairment or secondary physical injury. However, a recent study has shown that the low tolerance may also be related to cardiac fitness.

The study measured the heart rate-at rest and after exercise-of 12 boys who had survived a severe traumatic brain injury. They found that, as compared to healthy controls, the TBI survivors had significantly higher heart rates at rest and after exercise. Although the nature of brain injury varied between the boys, it was suggested that diffuse axonal injury could contribute to impairment of the autonomic nervous system.

Additionally, prolonged bed rest and a sedentary lifestyle may contribute to the difference in heart rates. The authors of the study propose that it may be a combination of both, and that clinicians and rehabilitation professional should take the potential for lowered fitness into consideration when creating a treatment plan.

Katz-Leurer M, Rotem H, Keren O, & Meyer S. Heart rate and heart rate variability at rest and during exercise in boys who suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and typically-developed controls. Brain Injury. (February 2010).