Return to Play After a Concussion

Does my child need clearance to return to play?

Return to Play: Kids ImageYes. Students must be evaluated and cleared —  in writing — to return to play by an appropriate medical professional, as determined by your school district.

Regardless of your state’s law, you do not want your child to be re-injured while he is recovering from a concussion. Re-injury can make a concussion worse and cause long-term disability.

When can my child return to physical activity (contact sports and play)?

It will depend on your child. You can promote recovery and prevent ongoing symptoms by following a “return to play” plan like the one below. Your doctor will customize this plan based on your child’s needs, and your child will move through the plan at his own pace.

Video FAQs about returning to play after a concussion

Return to play plan

Step 1

While bed rest is not necessary, complete physical rest is beneficial until symptoms are improved. Initially, your child may only tolerate light walking for up to 15 minutes. Your child should not do anything that breaks a sweat or causes moderate or severe symptoms to develop.

Step 2

Your child may then participate in some light aerobic exercise (brisk walking, stationary cycling, etc.) as long as severe symptoms do not return during or after the activity. No weight training is permitted during this time. Your child should stop the activity if symptoms develop. Your child should not advance to step 3 until he can tolerate a full day of school without symptoms.

Step 3

Once your child is able to tolerate light aerobic exercise, he may advance to sport-specific exercise, including moderate jogging/brief running, moderate-intensity stationary biking, throwing a baseball and kicking a soccer ball. No head impact activities should be permitted.

Step 4

Once your child is able to tolerate sport-specific exercise, he may advance to noncontact training drills and heavy noncontact physical exertion, including sprinting/running, high-intensity stationary biking, his regular weightlifting routine and noncontact sport-specific drills.

Step 5

At this point, ask your child’s doctor if your child is ready to advance to full contact play.

If you have questions about your child’s injury, please contact your child's primary care physician. CHOP Primary Care physicians are located in more than 30 communities across Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Call 911 if your child has any of the following symptoms:

  • Seizures (twitching or jerking movement of parts of the body; may look stiff)
  • Weakness or tingling in the arms or legs
  • Cannot recognize people or places
  • Confused, restless or agitated
  • Impaired consciousness
  • Difficult to arouse or unable to awaken
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Bloody or clear fluid from the nose or ears


Reviewed on April 23, 2014