Your Child's Concussion Recovery

Young teen boy loooking very bored
Simon Potter

If you just found out that your child has a concussion, you are probably wondering what the recovery time of the concussion will be like. The growing and developing brains of children and teens often take longer to heal from a concussion than adults. A concussion that may take a few days for an adult to heal from can take weeks for a school-age child to recover. During this time period, here is what you can expect:

 1) Your Child Will Be Bored 

 Your medical provider will almost certainly tell you that your child needs to spend some time doing nothing. In this case, nothing means nothing. Physical activity will be limited, in part to prevent receiving a second concussion during the recovery period. 

Nothing also includes any mental activity, especially the use of electronic media. When your child has the flu, they can often watch television while they recover. Not so with a concussion! No computers, no handheld devices, no texting, no book reading -nothing that requires any sort of thinking at all. 

What You Can Do: Accept that your child will be bored. Just remind your child that it is part of the recovery process, and the use of their brain is what is at stake. You can also look for activities that are okay to do with a concussion.

2) Your Child Will Have Setbacks 

Concussion recovery is rarely straightforward. Improvement is often two steps forward, one back, rather than a steady progression of regular improvement until your child gets completely better. Even if you and your child follow the doctor's orders completely, you can still expect a few days where symptoms will return and lead your child to have to take additional rest days.

What You Can Do: Follow your doctor's orders on recovery. Setbacks may be disappointing, but following the guidelines given by your doctor will lead to the quickest recovery.

3) Expect a Slow, Gradual Return to Schoolwork

 It is unrealistic for most children with concussions to spend a few days at home and then jump back into school full force. 

For example, the first day back at school may be a half-day with no tests and no homework. If your child can do that with no increase in symptoms, then they may move on to a full day with no tests and homework. Each day without an increase in symptoms will lead to an increase in school activity until your child is fully reintegrated into schoolwork.

What You Can Do: Most doctors will create a plan to gradually return to normal activity. Follow the plan given by your medical provider. 

4) Your Child's Return to Sports Will Be Slow and Gradual

Concussions are a type of brain injury. The brain is the processing unit for the whole body. A gradual return to full physical activity will be necessary. 

This will also help prevent your child from getting a second concussion during the recovery period. Receiving a second concussion during the recovery period will lead to a drastically increased recovery period, with an increased risk of permanent damage.

What You Can Do: Follow the guidelines for a slow and safe return to play. Make sure to follow any safety precautions to reduce the chance of a second concussion.

5) You Will Be Communicating Frequently With Your Child's School 

Following the doctor's recommended recovery protocol and dealing with the setbacks that are common with concussion recovery means you will be in frequent communication with your child's school. You will need to inform your child's school as early as possible after your child's concussion diagnosis. 

Many school districts and schools across the nation have developed concussion policies in response to research in the last few years showing how important it is for proper concussion recovery.

What You Can Do: When you notify your child's school about the concussion, find out who you should contact at the school and how often they want to hear from you. The school will need to know how your child's recovery is going, including days when your child experiences any increase in concussion symptoms. 

You will also want to know if the school plans to dismiss assignments that are missed during the recovery period or how they plan to allow your child to make up the work after recovering. One pitfall you will want to avoid is having your child's school require missing work to be made up once they return to school or as soon as they are able to do some school assignments. Having to double up on work to get caught up is hard, and can lead to a return of concussion symptoms and a slower concussion recovery.

A Word From Verywell

While concussion recovery can take a long time for children or teens, following the guidelines will lead to the quickest and best recovery possible. Patience and consistency in following your medical provider's plan will lead to the best outcome. Rest assured that the difficulties experienced during the recovery period are worth your child's brain injury to heal.

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