Recovery from a sports concussion does not happen overnight, and you must let your child take the necessary time to heal. While a normal range for recovery is three to four weeks, that recovery time will vary by individual. Allowing your child to rest is one of the most important steps you can take as a parent after your child is diagnosed with a sports concussion.
"The brain really needs to have the opportunity to reestablish its health. That involves any overstimulation of the brain and may require accommodations at school," says Troy M. Smurawa, M.D., Director of Pediatric Sports Medicine at Children's Health℠ Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.
What to avoid during concussion recovery
Though it may be difficult for your child to take time away from school and sports, slowing down and allowing the brain to rest is imperative in recovery from a sports concussion. If your child is recovering from a concussion, it is best to avoid the following:
- Screen time (phones, computers and television)
- Loud noises
- Any causes of excessive stress
"The recovery process at the beginning of a concussion is when they are most symptomatic," says Christine Ellis, APRN, CPNP-PC at Children's Health Andrews Institute. "As we start to stretch out that time, they move away from that initial injury. We'll reintroduce school and, as they do okay with that, we start adding more things on in school."
Communicate with your child during concussion recovery
Though the restrictions may be tedious, it is important to remind your child to follow all direction from medical professionals. Remember, just because you can't see a concussion doesn't mean it's not there.
"It's not like we're dealing with a foot injury, which we can put in a cast and everybody knows it is in the process of healing. We don't have casts for concussions," says Scott Burkhart, Psy.D., Neuropsychologist and Concussion Expert at Children's Health Andrews Institute.
If your child is having a difficult time during the recovery process, encourage open communication with both your child and your medical professional.
"We want to make sure that we're listening to what's going on at home. How are the social, emotional components of your recovery affecting how your brain is doing?" says Dr. Burkhart.
Focus on healing after a concussion
The physical effects of a sports concussion present their own challenges, but the time away from school, friends and sports can add an emotional toll on your child during the recovery process.
"I learned the hard way in the first week of dealing with everything," says Brooke, who recovered from a sports concussion. "I would sit down and do my homework, telling myself I was fine, and then everything was spinning and louder than usual. It just amplified all of the symptoms that I had been feeling."
As time away from school can cause anxiety about falling behind in class or missing tests, it is important to keep your child focused on the long-term recovery goals and help him or her understand that taking on too much too quickly can lengthen that process.
"The number one consumer of energy in the brain is stress," says Dr. Burkhart. "If the athlete is a Type A, high-achieving kid, that athlete is going to have a harder time recovering from a concussion. They need to take a step back from academics for a minute and realize that, in the short term, to be able to focus on concussion recovery is going to be more beneficial to them than being worried about the tests they missed last week."
While forced rest can be frustrating, recognizing your child's emotions and letting him or her know that you are there for support can help ease the recovery process and get your child back in school and in the game.
The only pediatric institute of its kind in Texas, the Children's Health Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine aims at reducing the number of children being sidelined from injury. Learn more about our programs and services.
Sign up for Performance Playbook
Receive the latest advice from our orthopedic and sports performance specialists – right in your inbox. Sign up for Performance Playbook, the monthly newsletter from Children's Health Andrews Institute.