September 7


Stages of Concussion Recovery

By NeuroHealth Arlington Heights

September 7, 2023

concussion recovery, concussions, stages

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury in which the brain hits the inside of the skull. This type of injury usually results from a serious impact to the head. Some people lose consciousness when they sustain a concussion, which makes it easier to diagnose. However, many people don’t lose consciousness. You may only experience other symptoms like dizziness, headaches, or confusion. If you’ve suffered head trauma and suspect a concussion, you should contact our team at NeuroHealth for an assessment as soon as possible. Below are some essential details on the treatment and recovery process for a concussion.

Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion

Player lying on a field with a concussion
player lying on field by Ben Hershey is licensed with Unsplash License

Concussions are typically caused by a blow to the head, but they can also result from severe shaking that jolts the head or upper body. The symptoms of a concussion may seem mild at first but worsen over time. It’s important to be mindful of how an individual is acting in the hours and days following a head injury. Symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Inability to recall the events surrounding the injury.
  • Forgetfulness or confusion, often exhibited by asking the same question repeatedly.
  • Clumsy movements.
  • Slowed or slurred speech.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Changes in behavior, personality, or mood.
  • Dizziness.
  • Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Sensitivity to light and sound.
  • Difficulty with balance.
  • Blurred or double vision.
  • Ringing in the ears.
  • Drowsiness or fatigue.
  • A dazed appearance.

If you experience these symptoms or notice them in someone who has suffered from a head injury, you should seek medical attention immediately.

How Long Does Concussion Recovery Take?

Full recovery from a concussion typically takes about 30 days for individuals under the age of 18. For those over 18, recovery usually takes about 14 days. However, as many as 30% of individuals with a concussion will experience a prolonged recovery time. Individuals between the ages of 13 and 17 have the highest risk of experiencing a prolonged recovery. Recovery times are longer for women than for men. Your recovery may also take longer if:

  • You had severe symptoms at the time of the concussion.
  • You have a history of mental illness.
  • You suffer from a neurological disorder.
  • You experience social or family stressors.
  • You have a history of concussions or other brain injuries.

The Phases of Concussion Recovery

There are several stages that you’ll gradually progress through as you recover from a concussion. The exact length of each of these stages varies depending on the individual and the severity of the concussion. You should work closely with your health care provider throughout your recovery and gradually increase activities as your doctor deems appropriate.

Phase 1: Immediate Post-Concussion Care

You should seek medical attention as soon as possible after a concussion. Your health care provider will assess you for symptoms such as pain, confusion, nausea, dizziness, and sensitivity to light and sound. You will likely complete an acute concussion evaluation questionnaire and undergo basic tests to assess your balance and vision. You may need additional tests, such as a CT scan, an MRI, or an X-ray, to check for neck fractures, skull fractures, and brain bleeding.

During the first 24 to 72 hours after the injury, it’s crucial to monitor symptoms closely. You should reach out to your health care provider if your symptoms change or worsen even if you were cleared in the hospital and sent home.

Phase 2: Rest and Early Recovery

You should rest for at least 48 hours after a concussion. Avoid any activities that require physical exertion. Minimize mental effort, and avoid activities like reading, playing video games, or watching TV. You should take at least two days off school or work and nap as much as possible. Avoid any medications that increase the risk of bleeding, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen sodium, for at least 24 hours. Don’t drink alcohol during this phase of recovery.

Phase 3: Gentle to Moderate Activity

Approximately two to 10 days after the concussion, you can return to light activities. You can take gentle walks and return to moderate physical activity gradually. You should continue to limit screen time until your symptoms begin to lessen. Don’t take any medication unless directed by a physician. You can gradually return to school and work activities.

Moderate jogging, light weightlifting, and moderate biking are usually appropriate during this time. However, it’s important to work with your doctor to determine how much your body can handle, especially if you suffered other injuries with your concussion.

Cognitive therapy during this stage can hasten your recovery and help improve your memory and concentration. You should seek a quiet, distraction-free environment for any work or school activities and take breaks as needed. Make sure you’re getting ample sleep at night, and contact your doctor immediately if you notice your symptoms are worsening.

Phase 4: Ongoing Treatment

Your ongoing recovery will typically last for at least two or three weeks after the initial concussion. During this time, you should continue to follow your doctor’s treatment plan carefully. This may require that you adjust your work or school schedule. Physical therapy, massage, and acupressure can help you recover. People often suffer from anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns during this part of the recovery process. Therapy or counseling may help during this period.

As your symptoms gradually go away, you can return to your normal daily routines and activities. Children should wait until they’re able to participate fully in all classroom activities before returning to sports. You may resume strenuous physical activities within this period if cleared to do so by your physician.

Don’t Wait To Diagnose a Concussion

If you suspect that you or your child has suffered a concussion, you should contact a health care provider for a full assessment and personalized recovery plan. Our team at NeuroHealth Arlington Heights specializes in concussion treatment for children and adults. We’ve been in business for over 25 years and have ample experience in diagnosing concussions and recommending appropriate recovery plans. Contact us at (847) 925-7630 or via our online contact form.

NeuroHealth Arlington Heights

About the author

For over 20 years, NeuroHealth Arlington Heights has been offering neuropsychological and psychological assessments and treatments for people of all ages. These assessments and treatments address Behavioral, Emotional, & Social Issues, Neurocognitive Functions, and Neurodevelopmental Growth.