Steps for Concussion Recovery
A concussion is an injury to the brain which affects how it works. Common symptoms are headache, dizziness, trouble concentrating, feeling tired, and feeling foggy. Like all injuries, rest helps healing. Once healed, a gradual return back to normal activities is important to avoid repeat injury or making the injury worse. The below information includes a basic outline of the steps your child may go through when returning to normal life after a concussion. Each plan is slightly different and based on your child’s individual needs.
The team at Dayton Children’s will consider any prior head injuries, medical history, class schedule, specific symptoms, and sports played, then design a plan unique to your child’s needs.
Day of Injury
- Stop all physical, social, and mental activity. This includes sports, school, homework, computer time, video games, tv, texting, reading, listening to music, running errands, driving, or attending events.
- See a doctor within 24 hours
- Go to the ER for any loss of consciousness, vomiting, or severe symptoms (severe headaches, difficulty waking, extreme confusion, dizziness which causes difficulty standing, etc).
- Go to the ER for any other injuries which occurred with the concussion, such as a laceration or an eye injury.
Home recovery period (can last 2 days to 3 weeks).
Your child still feels symptoms while resting at home. The brain needs time to heal without letting isolation, anxiety, and boredom take over. More activity slows healing, but can be done under certain circumstances.
Continue mental, social, and physical rest, with a few exceptions:
- Do NOT do any make-up homework or exercise
- Do NOT go to loud, bright, or busy locations (like observing sports practice)
- DO allow up to 1-2 hours of brain activity or social activity per day. You may need to break this up into smaller segments if symptoms get worse.
- DO allow your child to get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, and eat a normal diet
Once your child feels better resting at home, recheck with the doctor. This is the best time to do a computer-based concussion test. This doctor’s visit will guide you in your child’s return to school.
If this period lasts longer than 3 weeks, see your doctor to find out if there is anything else you can do to help with recovery.
Return to School (length of time varies).
Once your child has no symptoms while resting at home, it is time to start a slow return to school.
The concussion team at Dayton Children’s will customize a return-to-school program for your child. The program will consider medical history, class schedule, time missed, and concussion symptoms
Expect to see school restrictions such as half days only, observation only, no tests or projects, no make-up work due dates, or breaks in a quiet room if needed.
Expect to see the doctor about every week during this time to change school restrictions as your child heals.
Once your child is able to attend a full day of class and do schoolwork without any concussion symptoms, it is time to add make-up work, tests, and a return-to-sports program.
Returning to sports (takes 5-10 days after full school return).
It is safe to start a stepwise return to sports once your child feels no symptoms at school and has been cleared by the doctor. Many of these steps can be done with approval of a school athletic trainer, or by phone with your physician
Expect to spend at least 24 hours on each of these steps. If concussion symptoms return, stop for 24 hours, then restart on the previous step when symptoms are gone.
1. Light cardio (jogging, walking fast, stationary bike)*
2. Moderate cardio and sports-specific non-contact drills
3. Full non-contact practice
4. Contact drills in practice
5. Full practice
6. Full games*
*Requires office visit to begin this step
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