Returning to Activity After a Childhood Concussion: Care Instructions

Skip to the navigation

Your Care Instructions

A concussion is a kind of injury to the brain. It happens when the head receives a hard blow. The impact can jar or shake the brain against the skull. This interrupts the brain's normal activities. Any child who has had a concussion at a sports event needs to stop all activity and not return to play. Being active again before the brain recovers can raise your child's risk of having a more serious brain injury.

Your doctor will decide when your child can go back to activity or sports. In general, a child should not return to play until all symptoms are gone. The risk of a second concussion is greatest within 10 days of the first one.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

Recovery

  • Help your child get plenty of rest. Your child needs to rest his or her body and brain:
    • Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep at night. Your child also needs to take it easy during the day.
    • Help your child avoid activities that take a lot of physical or mental work. This includes housework, exercise, schoolwork, video games, text messaging, and using the computer.
    • You may need to change your child's school schedule while he or she recovers.
    • Let your child return to normal activities slowly. Your child should not try to do too much at once.
  • Keep your child from activities that could lead to another head injury. Follow your doctor's instructions for gradually returning to activity and sports.

Returning to play

  • Your child's return to sports should be gradual. It should only begin when all symptoms of a concussion are gone, both at rest and during exercise or exertion.
  • Doctors and concussion specialists suggest steps to follow for returning to sports after a concussion. Use these steps as a guide. In most places, your doctor must give you written permission for your child to begin the steps and return to sports. Your child should slowly progress through the following levels of activity:
    1. No activity. This means complete physical and mental rest.
    2. Light aerobic activity. This can include walking, swimming, or other exercise at less than 70% maximum heart rate. No resistance training is included in this step.
    3. Sport-specific exercise. This includes skating drills or running drills (depending on the sport) but no head impact.
    4. Non-contact training drills. This includes more complex training drills such as passing. Your child may also begin light resistance training.
    5. Full-contact practice. Your child can participate in normal training.
    6. Return to normal game play. This is the final step and allows your child to join in normal game play.
  • Watch and keep track of your child's progress. It should take at least 6 days for your child to go from light activity to normal game play.
  • Make sure that your child can stay at each new level of activity for at least 24 hours without symptoms, or as long as your doctor says, before doing more.
  • If one or more symptoms come back, have your child return to a lower level of activity for at least 24 hours. He or she should not move on until all symptoms are gone.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child is confused or hard to wake up.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse vomiting.
  • Your child seems less alert.
  • Your child has new weakness or numbness in any part of the body.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.
  • Your child has new symptoms, such as headaches, trouble concentrating, or changes in mood.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter M970 in the search box to learn more about "Returning to Activity After a Childhood Concussion: Care Instructions".