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Concussions can happen during almost any sport. If you are concerned that your student athlete has a concussion, they should be removed from play immediately and seen by a healthcare professional as soon as possible. The team at the Sports Medicine Center Children’s Mercy will perform a thorough evaluation and create a plan to help them recover and get back to playing the sport they love.

Your concussion treatment plan: Steps to recovery for athletes


During your first appointment, your child will meet the care team and receive a thorough evaluation to confirm you have a concussion. This evaluation includes balance testing, vision testing, and computerized neurocognitive testing. We then start a formal return-to-play plan. 

Each step takes at least 24-48 hours as advised by your physician. It’s a five-to-six-step process that involves progressive activity centering on balance, cardiovascular, aerobic conditioning, and muscular strength coordination that are all sports-specific. 

We may utilize physical therapy in the early phases of recovery to help with symptoms, including dizziness, imbalance, headaches, and neck pain. Our athletic trainers and sports physical therapists guide appropriate exercise exertion levels during recovery. In addition to return-to-sport, the concussion care team also structures a return-to-learn program, providing appropriate academic accommodations so the athlete can continue with school as they heal. 

 

Steps to help guide recovery


For the first 24-48 hours we recommend rest and recovery. After this brief rest period, our goal is to get you back into a normal routine as quickly as possible without making symptoms worse. After the evaluation in the clinic, your provider will recommend a return-to-school or return-to-learn protocol and give recommendations on what exercise your student athlete can do. We encourage light exercise such as walking, jogging, or a stationary bike. We do not allow sports, physical education, weight lifting or contact sports until symptom free. Once symptom free we recommend a step-wise return to play as described below.  

  • Light aerobic exercise: stationary cycling/brisk walking.

  • Moderate activity: initiation of running and weightlifting at moderate intensity.

  • Non-contact drills: increase intensity of previous activities, begin non-contact sport specific training.

  • Return to full-contact practice after medical clearance by a physician.

  • Return to full competition or game play.

Concussion symptoms typically last 2-4 weeks, but during this time we promote an active rehabilitation and not complete rest.  

Certified concussion specialists


Your patient will be treated by a team of board-certified sports medicine physicians who are trained to care for pediatric patients. All of our physicians have specialized training focused on high school and junior high athletes. We also work alongside neurologists, neuropsychologists, rehab docs, and neurosurgeons if additional care is needed. 

Concussion symptoms


The first step in your treatment plan should be immediate removal from play. Anyone with a concussion should never return to play the same day of injury. Concussions can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body, or when an athlete simply trips or falls to the ground during a game. Early recognition is also important. Look for symptoms such as sensitivity to light, nausea, and dizziness. 

Concussion should be suspected in the presence of any one or more of the following:

  • Headache

  • Feeling of pressure in head

  • Neck pain 

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Dizziness

  • Blurred vision

  • Balance problems

  • Sensitivity to light

Symptoms frequently last up to three weeks in children and adolescents and can include:

  • Sensitivity to noise

  • Feeling slowed down

  • Feeling like “in a fog”

  • “Don’t feel right”

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Difficulty remembering

  • Fatigue or low energy

  • Confusion

  • Drowsiness

  • Trouble falling asleep