5 Steps to a Healthier Concussion Recovery
Health Hacks Navigating between rest and activity is key in successful management of pediatric concussion and getting kids back to school.
There’s a buzz about concussion these days. On playgrounds and sports fields, people are talking about and watching for bumps and blows to the head. It’s with good reason: concussion is the mildest and most common form of traumatic brain injury, affecting at least 2 million children and teens annually.
After a concussion, children typically recover and return to activities in relatively short order. If not evaluated and managed well, however, a concussion can be very serious. In fact, a second blow to the head while a child is still recovering from the first can worsen symptoms, prolong recovery and, in some cases, cause catastrophic injury.
While avoiding activities that increase risk of head injury is critical during recovery, it is important to know that complete rest is not recommended. It may seem counterintuitive, but research shows this can actually slow down recovery.
So what’s a parent to do? Seek out a medical professional with concussion experience. In our interdisciplinary clinic, neuropsychologists and physicians specializing in pediatric brain injury help parents understand the balancing act that is concussion recovery. Here is some guidance we offer parents:
1. Start slow
Rest at home for one to two days if needed. It is okay to try walking around the block, socializing with a friend and watching TV, but limits may be needed if your child feels worse during an activity.
2. Refrain from mental strain
After the rest days, an activity such as homework may cause a headache. This doesn’t indicate the brain injury is worsening. Rather, it’s a reflection of the brain’s tolerance to activity not having returned to normal. Back off the activity in that moment, take a break and then return to it — but don’t cease these activities.
3. Get to class
Missing too much school creates added pressure upon return. Extensive make-up work can prolong symptoms and increase risk of challenges related to stress and mood. Children who return more quickly to safe activities do better.
4. Stay on the sideline
Stay out of organized sports activities until cleared by a medical provider.
5. Try the right treatment
If symptoms don’t resolve quickly, active treatment can help. Increased hydration, more rest breaks at school, physical therapy, and medication can improve headaches. Behavioral strategies can help with managing pain, sleep, stress and mood.