Study: App with 'gamified symptoms journal' improves concussion treatment in teens

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The use of a social gaming mobile app compliments medical care for teenaged patients with unresolved concussion symptoms, according to a study published in Brain Injury.

The researchers conducted a study with two phases, both of which enrolled around 20 teenaged participants who experienced concussion symptoms more than three weeks after an injury. All participants received standard care for concussions, with a subset also encouraged to use a daily app.

The SuperBetter app, a "gamified symptoms journal," represents concussion symptoms — like headaches or dizziness — as villains, and presents medical recommendations — like sleep or sunglasses — as "power ups," similar to a video game.

In the first phase of the study, researchers analyzed satisfaction with the app and determined the plurality of patients used the intervention. For the second phase, which investigated patient outcomes, the researchers found those who used the app reported improved symptoms and more optimism.

"The app rewrites things you might be frustrated about as a personal, heroic narrative," said the study's lead author Lise Worthen-Chaudhari, a physical rehabilitation specialist at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center's Neurological Institute in Columbus. "So you might start out feeling 'I'm frustrated. I can't get rid of this headache,' and then the app helps reframe that frustration to 'I battled the headache bad guy today.'"

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