Concussions that happen during sports activities are a common injury. However, they are a brain injury and thus must be taken seriously.
Timelines for returning to activities after a concussion vary depending on how severe the injury is and how well you’re recovering. Most organized sports now follow return-to-sport concussion guidelines and even screen their athletes to have a baseline for comparison.
How long does it take to recover from a concussion?
First and foremost, if you are experiencing concussion symptoms, it’s important to seek medical care right away. You need to find out the level of your concussion as well as the specific treatment you need to make a full recovery.
The average concussion heals in seven to 30 days. Again, this depends on the severity and how well you’re following your treatment plan.
A common and very important part of recovering from a concussion is rest. Keeping the heart rate at normal levels is important, too. Relaxing and letting the brain rest is the best way to heal. This means avoiding heavy exercise, taking a break from TV, reading, screen-based activities and school or work.
When can you return to sports and physical activity after a concussion?
Again, the average concussion heals in seven to 30 days. However, returning to sports could take two weeks or several months.
Concussion protocols in organized sports dictate the process and the milestones that an athlete needs to go through in order to return to play. These protocols may include baseline testing at the beginning of a sport, with updated testing at regular intervals.
If you get injured, testing is done and compared to your baseline results. These data points help to determine when an athlete is healthy enough to return to play. They also help monitor the recovery process.
In addition to any organized sports protocols, you should be evaluated, monitored and fully cleared by your doctor before joining in any physical activities that put you at risk for reinjury. Once you’re completely free and have approval from your doctor, you should be able to return to your sport.
Overall, it is important for athletes to remember that returning to play before the brain is fully healed will only extend the time out from the sport. It also puts you at risk for another concussion. Repeat concussions are dangerous and can take longer to heal.
How to avoid concussions in the first place
The best way to avoid missing time on the fields or courts is to take safety precautions to reduce the risk of a sports-related concussion.
Consider these steps:
- Get proper training on techniques. Implement adjustments in training, such as avoiding head-first moves, limiting tackling and teaching athletes positioning that helps to avoid contact with the head.
- Follow the rules. Enforce safety rules without exception.
- Wear the right equipment. Helmets and mouthguards can’t eliminate the risk but can reduce it when worn properly. Make sure all equipment is up to standard and used at all times.