Acquired brain injury (ABI) refers to damage to the brain that occurs after birth. Causes include trauma from an external force (e.g. a direct blow to the head), hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain), substance abuse (e.g. alcohol), and tumours or infections (e.g. meningitis). There are two other major causes of ABI – stroke and neurodegenerative conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. Consequences of ABI include cognitive impairment (e.g. memory), physical impairment (e.g., high muscle tone and impaired coordination), behavioural impairment (e.g. impulsivity), as well as social and mental health consequences.
This factsheet is relevant for people with ABI who have been discharged from hospital and who undertake exercise similar to that undertaken by the general population. Evidence relating to inpatient rehabilitation and specific, exercise-based neurological rehabilitation techniques (e.g. body weight supported treadmill training, movement constraint therapy and Functional Electrical Stimulation) is not reviewed.
People with ABI are among the most physically inactive members of society, and, those with severe brain impairments are less active than those with mild to moderate impairments. This physical inactivity is harmful for health, fitness and function, and worsens the primary impairments resulting from ABI. There is strong scientific evidence to indicate that:
Because the effects of ABI are very variable and the quantity and quality of research on this population is limited, specific, recommendations for exercise programs are not possible. However some general recommendations can be made: