To examine the safety and tolerability of clinical graded aerobic treadmill testing in recovering adolescent moderate and severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients referred to a multidisciplinary pediatric concussion program.
We completed a retrospective case series of two moderate and five severe TBI patients (mean age, 17.3 years) who underwent initial Buffalo Concussion Treadmill Testing at a mean time of 71.6 days (range, 55-87) postinjury.
Six patients completed one graded aerobic treadmill test each and one patient underwent initial and repeat testing. There were no complications. Five initial treadmill tests were completely tolerated and allowed an accurate assessment of exercise tolerance. Two initial tests were terminated early by the treatment team because of neurological and cardiorespiratory limitations. As a result of testing, two patients were cleared for aerobic exercise as tolerated and four patients were treated with individually tailored submaximal aerobic exercise programs resulting in subjective improvement in residual symptoms and/or exercise tolerance. Repeat treadmill testing in one patient performed after 1 month of treatment with submaximal aerobic exercise prescription was suggestive of improved exercise tolerance. One patient was able to tolerate aerobic exercise following surgery for posterior glottic stenosis.
Preliminary results suggest that graded aerobic treadmill testing is a safe, well tolerated, and clinically useful tool to assess exercise tolerance in appropriately selected adolescent patients with TBI. Future prospective studies are needed to evaluate the effect of tailored submaximal aerobic exercise prescription on exercise tolerance and patient outcomes in recovering adolescent moderate and severe TBI patients.