Concussion Recovery: When Is it Safe to Return to Activities?
Concussion symptoms can vary between individuals and may include headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, sleep disturbances, and visual issues. While these symptoms vary from patient to patient, one of the most common questions patients and families ask is, “How much time will it take to recover from a concussion?”
Student athletes are often eager to return to games and practice, while adults may feel pressure to get back to work or resume their normal workout routine. However, rushing back to regular activity levels can cause symptoms to linger, making recovery even more challenging.
Concussion recovery times vary depending on the severity of the head injury and how it is treated. If properly treated, most patients recover from concussions in two to four weeks, but certain cases may take longer. Patients should always follow a doctor’s guidelines for returning to school, sports, or work.
Here are some general guidelines most doctors who specialize in concussions will recommend:
Recovering from a Concussion
Immediately following a suspected head injury, patients need several days of both physical and mental rest. Continuing to make the brain work is like continuing to walk on a sprained ankle. Trying to complete school or work assignments, reading, and even processing information online or through texting does not allow the brain to heal. Total and complete rest during the first few days will make it more likely you will be ready to ease back into activities.
Returning to Sports or Physical Activity
Each concussion is highly individualized; therefore, the treatment plan following the rest period is different for each patient. A step-by-step, return-to-play progression which gradually introduces physical activity and is non-symptom producing is utilized by physicians in order to return patients safely to sport or physical activity.
Returning to School
Returning to school also follows a graduated progression that may include but is not limited to modified school days, classroom and/or testing modifications, and extra time for assignments.
The key for returning to any type of activity is to gradually add activities after the initial period of total rest and to continue to have a concussion specialist monitor the symptoms.
Seek Treatment Early from a Concussion Specialist
Doctors who are specially trained in concussion diagnosis and treatment offer specific assessments that are able to help detect the extent of the concussion and the specific way the concussion is affecting each individual patient.
Dr. Zach Smith, with the LeBauer Sports Medicine Concussion Clinic, is a board-certified sports medicine doctor who is specially trained and certified in ImPACT, an advanced tool that measures memory, visual processing speed, and reaction time. Smith and Valerie Wolf, a certified ImPACT athletic trainer, also use vestibular ocular motor screening to evaluate patients. This is a simple and painless test that focuses on the systems that integrate a patient’s movement, balance, and vision. After a thorough evaluation, Smith can guide patients through an individualized treatment plan and monitor progress to determine when it is safe to return to normal activities.
LeBauer Sports Medicine Concussion Clinic and Hotline
The LeBauer Sports Medicine Concussion Clinic, located on Elam Avenue in Greensboro, offers a concussion hotline that allows anyone to receive guidance on concussions. You can speak with a staff member specially trained in concussion care during our regular office hours, Monday – Thursday from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM, and Fridays from 7:30 AM to 12:00 PM, by calling the hotline at 336.851.8436. The hotline allows you to discuss symptoms if you suspect a concussion and receive recommendations for at-home care until the patient can visit the clinic for an evaluation. Patients do not need a referral to visit the concussion clinic. You can request an appointment through the hotline or through our online appointment form.