My child has a concussion. What is the recovery process?

Most adult concussion signs and symptoms last 7-10 days. Children tend to experience a more delayed recovery. Many children will take 2 to 4 weeks to heal though for some it could be months. Having had a previous concussion increases the chance a person will have a delayed recovery.

Symptoms should be decreasing over time. Take your child to the doctor if you are worried that your child is not improving or their symptoms are prolonged.

Concussion Recovery Process for Parents

The Rest Stage

The first and most important step in your child’s recovery from a concussion is rest. Your child will need both physical and cognitive rest after sustaining a concussion.

Physical rest means participation in daily life activities that do not result in an increased heart rate or breaking a sweat.

Cognitive rest means limiting activities that require concentration and learning.

The goal is to not trigger or worsen symptoms.

Once symptom-free for a 24 hour period your child can begin to add activities and focus on returning to school. Time within this stage varies with each concussion case.

As new activity levels are introduced, symptoms could return or new symptoms could appear. This means the brain needs more time to heal. If at any point symptoms return, stop the activity and rest until symptom-free.

Physical
Restrict Activities that may be tolerated
Exercise
Sports
Riding a bike
Running
Play wrestling
Daily activities that do not increase heart rate or break a sweat.
Cognitive
Restrict or Limit Activities that may be tolerated
Computers
Smartphones
Video games
School work
Watching TV
Playing music
No headphones
Loud music
Reading
Socializing
School attendance

Drawing
Playing with lego
Playing cars/trains
Baking

** Low Level Social Interactions (try in short periods)

Social interactions that do not cause symptoms are important in preventing social isolation or depression and anxiety. Some suggestions of low level social interactions are short conversations on the phone with friends and family or a meal with grandparents.

Once symptom-free at rest it is important that your child has successfully returned to school full-time before they begin to 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.

Coping with your child’s emotions

It is normal for a child or adolescent to be anxious, angry and depressed after sustaining a concussion. Many children worry about school and social failure. Reassure your child that this is only a temporary situation. Talk with your child about these issues and offer encouragement and support.

Depression can be a part of the long term consequences of concussion. Your child may be feeling depressed due to a loss of place in school, on a team or social life. Depression in some children can be the result of physical changes in their brain associated with the injury itself.

If you think your child is depressed or suffering from anxiety talk to your doctor.

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