[Addendum from a comment left by the author of the blog, "Thankful for everyday!" Here's the comment:
"When I first started having symptoms (not realizing I had a bleeding tumor) I thought I could "exercise away" all the bad feelings...it only made me worse. I was sure I would feel better after pushing myself, WRONG."
RIGHT! In both human and animal models, too much exercise too soon can make things worse! You should not put "the pedal to the metal" until the sub-acute phase. Its a long story, and a bit more nuanced (and detailed in the 2nd ed. of Stronger). Wait for the MD and therapists to say "Go!" After day 14 just about everyone is ready for intensity. But for some survivors it may be significantly earlier. And you don't want to wait too long, because then learned non-use sets in.]
There are two kinds of survivors who recover from stroke faster than others: Athletes and musicians. (Anyone who has been a high level athlete, dancer, musician, etc.)
And while the manifestation of individual strokes would make my hypothesis near impossible to test, there are three reasons to believe that it may be true.
Reason one: There may very well be hypertrophy of the motor portions of the brain in both athletes and musicians. We know that massed practice will reconfigure the brain, with new neurons recruited and new pathways developed. And which populations are, by definition, involved massed practice? Athletes and musicians.
Reason two: As anyone who is either an athlete or a musician knows, both these populations know how to train. And I don't mean just, "Yeah, I did my therapy today" kind of training. I mean the "I dream about therapy, wake up and plan my day around therapy and dedicate most of my time to therapy" kind of training.
Reason three: Athletes and musicians are often extremely motivated to get back to their instrument or their sport.
Both athletes and musicians understand all the factors that are important to stroke rehab. They know how to practice with vigor and focus. They know the commitment of time and resources that such practice involves. And they know that if their practice routine changes, they will get different results.
Successful survivors are true athletes. Their "level of competition" is somewhat limited, to be sure. But, on the other hand, they have the most devoted fans in sport: Their loved ones. And their families and friends have every reason, both altruistic and self-serving, to coach, cajole, encourage, support and embolden their athlete towards success.