The treatment for a concussion is rest — both mental and physical. It is important to allow for sufficient brain rest so that the brain is able to heal. For specific instructions on what your child can and cannot do while rest is prescribed, review the Return to Learn program.
Most children who suffer concussions will heal spontaneously, within one month of their injury. However, about 20 percent of children will go on to suffer symptoms for an extended period of time — beyond one month.
If concussed patients overexert themselves immediately after their injury, they are often more at risk of having prolonged recovery times.
While research has demonstrated that rest immediately after a concussion can help the brain recover from injury, research has also shown that resting too long after a concussion can get in the way of recovery.
Video FAQs about prolonged recovery after a concussion
Symptoms beyond one month
Typically, if symptoms last longer than one month, your child will require active rehabilitation to aid in his recovery. Common symptoms that seem to linger include:
- Vestibular system deficits (brain’s ability to visually track and focus and maintain balance)
- Exercise continues to induce physical symptoms (headache, nausea)
- Cognitive deficits (memory issues, attention deficits and challenges in problem solving)
- Alterations in mood (irritability, sadness and depression)
If these symptoms persist, they can affect school performance and hinder interactions with family and friends.
A thorough evaluation by your child’s healthcare team will determine what specific deficits are causing lingering symptoms; an appropriate treatment plan can then be made. Specific rehabilitation therapies for concussion with persistent symptoms beyond one month include:
- Vestibular therapy with balance and eye movement exercises
- Aerobic rehabilitation to increase tolerance for exercise
- Speech therapy, a type of cognitive or rehabilitation therapy for the brain, to help with working memory and problem solving
Sadness and depression
If your child suffers from alterations in mood, such as sadness, depression and/or personality changes, it is important to understand that these feelings are very common when someone is suffering the long-term effects of a brain injury. These feelings can be especially pronounced in adolescents.
Parents and caregivers should pay close attention to changes in mood and discuss with the child’s healthcare team ways to support patients through counseling, therapy or support groups, such as the REACH program at CHOP.
Visit After the Injury to learn more.