Concussion: What To Do & How To Speed The Healing Process

By David M. Schwartz, Ph.D., ABPdN
Clinical Neuropsychologist

Fall sports are swinging into high gear and increased activities mean an increase in the number of concussions. Today, with increased awareness of the dangers of concussion, coaches and parents are working together to discuss ways to prevent concussions. But even with the best efforts, concussions will happen. When they do, it is important to take action quickly and treat them appropriately.

Luckily, research suggests that concussions improve and most people return to their level of functioning before the concussion.

Multiple studies suggest that within seven to ten days, about 40 percent of individuals who have sustained a concussion, return to baseline (pre-concussion) levels of functioning.

Between 14 and 17 days, about 65-70 percent return to baseline levels.

At about three weeks, approximately 85 percent return to baseline.

Finally, by 31 to 34 days post-injury, about 92 percent of individuals with concussion return to baseline levels of functioning.We recommend allowing 4 to 6 weeks for a full recovery.

So you can see, it can take quite a while for a child to recover. One of the challenges is that a child with concussion will usually look perfectly fine, and may even be self-motivated to hide symptoms. That’s where you, as a parent, teacher or coach, can help.

If you suspect that a child has sustained a concussion:
  • Immediately remove the child from the activity or sport that they were participating in. When in doubt, “Pull them out.”
  • Seek medical attention right away from a healthcare professional trained in evaluating concussions.
  • Make sure to emphasize the need to give the brain a chance to heal and recover. This means getting plenty of rest and minimizing unnecessary cognitive and physical exertion.
  • Make sure the child drinks plenty of water (up to 64 oz. per day), eats nutritiously, and gets seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Avoid afternoon naps because they tend to disrupt the sleep cycle at night.
  • Communicate with your child’s school and teachers. It will be very important to keep them updated so that your child doesn’t fall too far behind in school. More importantly, everyone should strive to decrease the anxiety and stress of falling behind in school. Many children feel overwhelmed.
  • Work with the treatment team to put academic accommodations in place to help make your child’s return to school as smooth as possible.
  • Follow all treatment plan recommendations and protocols so that your child can be medically cleared to return to their activities and sports.

How to Speed Healing
Once a concussion is diagnosed, there are several ways to improve the recovery process.

Research has identified several treatment trajectories based on certain symptom clusters after a concussion. Once the symptom cluster or symptom clusters have been identified, specific treatment protocols can often improve the efficiency and speed of recovery.

Currently, six treatment trajectories have been identified. They are:
  • Vestibular – related to balance
  • Ocular – related to eye movement
  • Cognitive/Fatigue – related to mental exertion
  • Post-Traumatic Headache/Post-Traumatic Migraine
  • Cervical – related to the neck
  • Anxiety/Mood – related to psychological and emotional factors

Once treatment trajectories have been identified, making sure the child is able to get to his or her specific treatment protocol sessions can make a big difference.

How can GMC Help?

The Concussion Institute at Gwinnett Medical Center – Duluth has healthcare professionals that are specially trained in identifying, assessing, managing, and treating concussion and the recovery process. We use the latest research and state of the art technology to provide our patients with evidence-based approaches to assessment and treatment. 

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