Concussion Recovery: Parents Play Important Role

Lindsay Barton,
Concussion Recovery: Parents Play Important Role

Parents play an important role in their child's recovery from a suspected concussion.

Here's what experts say parents should do during concussion recovery:

1. Regular and close monitoring for first 24 to 48 hours. Although most sport-related concussions are mild, the potential always exists for complications, some life-threatening (such as bleeding on the brain or second-impact syndrome). Such complications may occur immediately (minutes to hours) or over several days after the injury. If your child experiences any of the following signs of deteriorating mental status, take her to the hospital immediately:

  • Has a headache that gets worse
  • Is very drowsy or can't be awakened (woken up)
  • Can't recognize people or places
  • Is vomiting
  • Behaves unusually, seems confused or very irritable
  • Experiences seizures (arms and legs jerk uncontrollably)
  • Has weak or numb arms or legs
  • Is unsteady on his feet
  • Has slurred speech

2. Waking up: The traditional rule has been to wake up a concussed athlete every 3 to 4 hours during the night to evaluate changes in symptoms and rule out the possibility of an intracranial bleed, such as a subdural hematoma. A good rule of thumb to use is to wake up your child during the night to check for signs of deteriorating mental status (see #1) only if he experienced a loss of consciousness or prolonged amnesia after the injury, or was still experiencing other significant post-concussion symptoms at bedtime. There is no need to check his eyes with a flashlight or test his reflexes.

3. Medication: After a concussion, you should consult with a medical doctor before giving medications to your child.

4. Drug use warning: Warn your child about the dangers of ingesting alcohol, illicit drugs, or other substances that might interfere with cognitive function and neurologic recovery.

5. Physical rest: Rest is important to recovery, but not complete bed rest. Allow your child to resume normal activities of daily living such as driving once symptoms begin to resolve or decrease in severity, but engage in exercise or training only after his symptoms have completely cleared, and return to physical and mental rest if symptoms recur.

6. Cognitive rest. Because activities that require concentration and attention may exacerbate post-concussion symptoms and delay recovery, youth athletes who have sustained concussions should limit their day-to-day and school-related activities until they are symptom free. You should check with your child's doctor for best strategies for returning to school, sports, and other normal activities.

7. Graduated return-to-play. Recent concussion guidelines recommend that athletes follow a step-wise approach to return-to-play utilizing progressive aerobic and resistance exercise challenge tests.

8. Normal diet: Limited information is available regarding the recommended diet for the management of concussion. A normal well-balanced diet that is nutritious in both quality and quantity should be maintained to provide the needed nutrients to aid in the recovery process. Avoid spicy foods.

9. Further testing/management. Your child should be seen by a specialist if any of the following are true:

  • His post-concussion symptoms  last more than 10 days or recur with exertion;
  • He experienced concussive convulsions or loss of consciousness (LOC) of one minute or more at the time of injury;
  • He has suffered one or more concussions in the past, especially where they appear to be recurring with progressively less impact force (e.g. a minor blow); or
  • He has learning disabilities.

10. Trust your instincts. Be as involved in the management of your child's concussion recovery as your instincts tell you to be. Don't be afraid to ask your child how he is feeling, or take him to his pediatrician or a specialist if you suspect something is wrong.

Posted on BrainLine July 25, 2008. Reviewed July 25, 2018.

From Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Comments (14)

I had a concussion 2 years ago and how do we know if we still have it?

I’m pretty sure that concussions don’t last 2 years but if there is still a problem something is obviously wrong.

It has been 3 weeks since my concussion and I still having strong and really painful headache and I sleep way more then I use do threw out the day I am consently falling a sleep for short peirods of time. I don't know if it's a good thing or not

Hello, I got a concussion a week ago. I don't seem to be improving. Went to the ER for it 6 days ago. I didn't get a scan while I was there, they gave me a "party pack" IV and sent me home. They didn't give me any post instructions like medications I can take. The headache has been all day today 🤕. My ears hurt, I have light sensitivity and spells of verdago which leads to nausea

@Nov 9th, 2015 1:03am I would consult with a GP/Doctor as soon as possible, in the meantime it would worth consulting with NHS24 (if you're in the UK) or equivelant Medical body in case you are in need of immediate attention. It is worth taking any head condition seriously and seeking proper medical advice.

I got a concussion this summer in a bike incident. Now I feel like I have brain problems. I feel as though my brain does not absorb the day. Like I will be doing something then doing another thing and not even realize the change. It worries me. I tell people but they don't really understand it. Even google can't help me😋. If anyone has any ideas at all... It is appreciated

Consider neurofeedback if symptoms persist past a normal 3 month recovery window.

If any of you live in Pennsylvania, please contact your local BrainSTEPS team for help with school after concussion! 

My 15 year old daughter got a concussion at cheer practice 12 days ago and is still having short term memory loss. She has been seen by a concussion center, a neurologist and  her pediatrician. She had a ct scan of brain and that came back fine. Waiting on results of mri.  Anyone else experience this similar memory loss after a concussion?

My daughter now 11 yrs. Fell from a tree while in the care of a babysitter. (She wasnt supose to be in tree.) However, at the age of 6 fell over 10 ft to the cement driveway below. Broke her left wrist trying to break her fall and when wrist didnt hold busted all of her front perm. Teeth. Not to mention the contusion on her brain. I kinda noticed she wasnt herself but dealing with arm and teeth i was happy my baby would be ok. She has mentioned to me several times she has trouble remembering.. also seems confused about commen sense things.. giving her simple instructions over and over and still doesnt get it fully. i feel like in some ways shes 11 but other ways she is still 6. Its been 5 yrs....

We are going on our fourth month after my son suffered a concussion during football practice. We are seeing a brain injury/sports injury physician, neurologist and have seen a neuropsychologist. It was recommended at the last appointment to reduce the stimulation and anything that involves cognitive thinking etc, but after almost 4 months we are having a tough time keeping him occupied....he feels great except for the headaches he gets when overdoing it. Any suggestions?
Here is an important note for parents about head injury terminology used and associated levels of care provided:
A parents involvement in the recovery of any brain injury or concussion is vital. I am a aurvivor of a TBI and I would like to add my perspective on the subject. Gladly, I can report that I am no longer on medication but before this, my parents had to keep a closer watch to ensure that I maintained my routine and stayed up to date with my meds. My parents helped me stay on the task at hand and ensured that I was well rested both cognitively and physically. Another key thing to remember is trust. It's important for both sides so that recovery goals can be met by all involved.
This was very useful information. After my 5 year old son hit his head on the playground, we began looking for information as to what the signs and symptoms of a concussion are. With the help of this information along with other BrainLine articles we were able to provide the care my son needed without a trip to the emergency room.