How does my child successfully return to school?

Return to Learn

After your child is free from symptoms for 24 hours they may begin a gradual return to school. One of the most common problems during recovery is returning to full activities too soon. It is important that children and adolescents follow a controlled gradual return to school.

The Return to Learn Protocol will help guide your child to return to school before they return to play sports. The goal of working through the return to learn stages is to increase cognitive activity gradually without triggering any symptoms (even very mild symptoms).

If symptoms worsen during any activity, STOP the activity. Once symptom-free return to a reduced activity level or reduce the time spent within the activity.

For example, if reading for 30 minutes produces a headache the child should stop reading until they are symptom-free. Once symptom-free the child can resume reading, but for a maximum of 20 minutes. After 20 minutes of reading, the child should take a break from activities requiring them to concentrate. If they remain symptom-free after the break, they can resume reading for another 20 minutes. This can be repeated several times in a day as tolerated.

The time it takes to successfully return to learn varies with each concussion case.

Inform your child’s school

Your child's school may or may not have a concussion management plan. Inform the administration that your child has sustained a concussion. You may want to set up a meeting with the principal, your child's teacher(s), resource teachers and counselors to discuss the best return to school plan for your child.

Once your child has successfully returned to a full day of school they may begin to focus on returning to sports.

For a child who works

A child who both works and goes to school should return to school before work. If your child works but does not go to school, they should focus on returning to cognitive aspects of work before physical activities. Use the return to school guidelines to help guide this process. Once they are successfully back to a normal cognitive level of activity they can use the return to play protocol to guide their return to physical activities.

How does my child successfully return to play sports?

Return to Play

It is important that your child has successfully returned to school full-time before they return to play sports. Returning to play too early may result in more severe or potentially long term problems. A focus on return to learn first has been shown to lead to a quicker return to play.

The Return to Sport Communication Tool will help guide your child to return to play sports. The goal of working through the return to play stages is to increase physical activity gradually without triggering any symptoms (even very mild symptoms).

Your child must be symptom free for at least 24 hours at one stage before advancing to the next one. If at any time the symptoms RE-APPEAR, then they must go back to the previous stage until they are symptom-free again for 24 hours.

If a NEW symptom appears, your child should see a doctor to be cleared to continue on the return to play stages. The return to play stages typically takes 7 to 10 days for adults to complete and longer for children and adolescents.

Return to Play Communication Tool

The Return to Sport Communication Tool will help guide your child’s recovery and communicate the child's progress to coaches and physical education teachers. You may need to provide your child's coaches and teachers with an explanation of the return to play stages and the purpose of this communication tool.

It is important to record the date and time of when your child is symptom-free so that they can be cleared to move onto the next stage.

Medical clearance is required before your child moves to full-contact practice (stage 5).

Red Flag Symptoms

If your child shows any of the following Red Flag Symptoms call 911 immediately.

  • Neck pain
  • Increased confusion or irritability
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Seizure or convulsion
  • Weakness in arms/legs
  • Tingling or burning in arms/legs
  • Deteriorating consciousness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severe or increasing headache
  • Unusual behaviour change
  • Double vision