Stages of Concussion Recovery
What is a concussion?
A concussion means that the brain is confused. It is the most common type of traumatic brain injury. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a type of brain damage that occurs as a result of an injury to the head. This type of injury may be non-penetrative, such as a blow to the head, or penetrative, such as a gunshot wound. The severity of a TBI depends on various factors, and the lasting effects can range from a few days to permanent brain damage or, in severe cases, death.
Stages of concussion recovery
Any TBI, regardless of the severity level, requires prompt medical attention. Directions from a health care professional should be followed when recovering from a concussion. Observation for 24 hours may be recommended in a hospital setting or at home. Although most people completely recover from a concussion within a month, there are certain stages of recovery that should be followed. These stages include rest, light activity, moderate activity, normal activity, and full recovery.
In the first few days following a concussion, the brain needs to rest. Activities requiring concentration should be avoided for the first two days, including playing video games, watching TV, texting, reading, etc. Physical activities should also be very limited during this time.
After a few days of rest, light activity can be completed. This may include light physical activity, such as short walks, or watching TV as long it does not make symptoms worsen. If symptoms increase, reduce the activity until it becomes tolerable. A good night's sleep is important during this stage of recovery.
Activities can be increased as symptoms begin to subside. This includes both physical activities and mental activities. Examples of moderate physical activities may include a short run, swimming, or biking. Screen time can be increased as long as it does not worsen the symptoms. If approved by a medical professional to return to school or work, the days may need to be shortened during this stage.
All physical and mental activities can be resumed with approval from a health care professional. However, special care should be taken to ensure another brain injury does not occur. Consecutive brain injuries can cause extensive brain damage. Normal activities should not be resumed if symptoms are still present. Caffeinated drinks should also be limited during this stage.
Complete recovery from a concussion typically takes between one week to a month. In severe cases, it may take longer, which may indicate post-concussion syndrome. Post-concussion syndrome, or PCS, is a condition that involves prolonged symptoms following a concussion or a mild TBI. It can occur within days of a brain injury, or may take weeks to appear. During the full recovery stage, physical and mental activities can be completely resumed with no symptoms of the concussion.