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Return to activity

return to learn, work, and play

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people sustain a concussion as a result of a motor vehicle crash, fall, or collision on the field, court or playground. Most will make a full and quick recovery. One of the challenges with a person who has experienced a concussion is determining when he or she can return to a normal active routine. When a person returns to activity too soon after sustaining a concussion, it can actually cause concussion symptoms to reappear or worsen.

This is why it’s important to contact a health care professional who is trained in concussion management, like our HeadStrong physicians, after a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Our doctors can monitor your recovery to determine when you’re ready to return to activity, like the classroom or field. Rest is critical after suffering a concussion because it allows time for the brain to heal. Mental and cognitive exertion requires a lot of brain energy. When returning to a stressful job or crashing to study for an exam without allowing the brain to a make a full recovery after a concussion, can lead to severe headaches and make it more difficult to concentrate, remember things or think clearly. This also correlates with mental exertion. Playing a sport or working out also takes significant brain energy. When the energy from the brain is depleted due to an injury, symptoms are most likely to return and worsen. The best and safest way to return to activity without the chance of suffering painful symptoms is giving your brain time to heal. After rest and no sign of concussion symptoms, that’s when a person is safe to return to activity. Start small with light activities such as walking, light reading or writing and allocating more breaks and time away from the computer or television. It is important to understand that each person is different while healing from a concussion. Some people will experience a faster recovery, while some may take longer, even if they did suffer the same injury. Thus, regular monitoring of symptoms, including input from the person, is essential in any return to activity. Remember, a concussion is a serious injury to your brain, so rest and gradual returning to a normal routine is critical. The steps in a full return-to-activity is a slow and steady process, the protocols towards recovery shouldn’t be completed in a day, but instead over days, weeks or months.



It is very important that you do not go back to sports if you have any concussion symptoms or signs. Return to sport and activity must follow a step-wise approach:

STEP 1) No activity, complete rest. Once back to normal and cleared by a doctor, go to step 2.

STEP 2) Light exercise such as walking or stationary cycling, for 10-15 minutes.

STEP 3) Sport specific aerobic activity (ie. skating in hockey, running in soccer), for 20-30 minutes.

STEP 4) "On field" practice such as ball drills, shooting drills, and other activities with NO CONTACT (ie. no checking, no heading the ball, etc.).

STEP 5) "On field" practice with body contact, once cleared by a doctor.

STEP 6) Game play.

Note: Each step must take a minimum of one day. If you have any symptoms of a concussion (e.g. headache, feeling sick to your stomach) that come back either with activity, or later that day, stop the activity immediately and rest until symptoms resolve, for a minimum of 24 hours. See a doctor and be cleared before starting the step-wise protocol again.

You should not go back to sport until you have been cleared to do so by a doctor.




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