Most people recover within a few days to three months. The Zurich Consensus statement on concussion recovery recommends the following five stages of rehabilitation:
- No activity: Focus on recovery. Rest your body and your mind.
- Light aerobic exercise: Get your heart rate up with light activities like walking and swimming, but don’t go past 70% of your maximum heart rate. Your goal is to increase your heart rate without risk of re-injury. Do not do any resistance training yet.
- Sport-specific exercise: Add movement by re-introducing sport-specific movement like skating or running drills. Do not do anything that might risk a head impact.
- Non-contact training drills: Add more complex forms of training to improve your exercise, coordination and cognitive load. This could include passing drills in football and hockey. You may start resistance training again.
- Full-contact practice: Once your doctor says it’s okay, you can participate in normal training again. This will build your confidence and skills before returning to play.
At any stage, if you experience any recurring symptoms, restart the process and remain inactive until the symptoms stop.
Returning to play after concussion should occur only with medical clearance from a licensed health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussions.
Dr. Alexandra Tarkowski