Phases of Concussion Recovery

Phases of Concussion Recovery


With prompt treatment, most children recover fully from mild concussions with no long-term effects. However, some children may not follow the standard phases of recovery.To ensure the brain heals properly our team of specialists will provide step-by-step guidance on when it is safe for patients to return to school, sports and other activities. Our treatment plans are tailored to the child’s needs, but in general they follow 3 phases of recovery. (The timelines we detail below are only guidelines and may not represent all cases.)

Phase 1 of concussion recovery

In the first 1 to 5 days after a concussion, it is important for the child to:

Rest: Concussions are serious injuries that require time to heal. Limiting physical and mental activities is key to the recovery process. The child should limit any type of stimulating mental activity, including:

  • Watching TV
  • Playing video games
  • Reading
  • Physical activity other than an easy walk

Receive medication: Physical symptoms, such as headache and neck pain, are common. You can give your child over-the-counter medications, as directed by the primary care or emergency room physician. The child needs to stay calm and rest the brain, so pain management is important.

Stay home from school and sports: Your provider will let you know when it’s safe for your child to return to school and sports. When the child does return, it will be with modifications at first.

Phase 2 of concussion recovery

During days 2 to 10 after the injury, your child may:

Return to daily activities: Your child can begin to resume activities of daily living and tolerate limited amounts of screen time, reading and very light physical activity.

Resume school: We have a dedicated nurse coordinator who will work directly with your child’s school to ensure they are aware of any special modifications that may need to be made to assist in your child’s recovery. Learn about our return to school protocol.

Receive less medication: As pain begins to improve, the child should require less medication. It is important to use over-the-counter medications only as needed in this phase.

Phase 3 of concussion recovery

During days 7 to 21 after a concussion diagnosis, the child may:

Fully engage in school: Most special accommodations are no longer required for your child to take part in classroom activities.

No longer need medication: At this point, pain has likely subsided, so your child can go off pain medication.

Play sports: The child can return to sports, physical education class, and other physical activity once a pediatric specialist sees no concussion symptoms or signs and verifies it is safe to do so. The child must be participating 100 percent in the classroom before returning to sports. Learn more about our return to play protocol.

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