What is a concussion?

A concussion or mild brain injury is a type of traumatic brain injury (injury to the brain caused by trauma, such as hitting your head). When you have a mild brain injury, it can affect the way you normally do things. It can also cause your brain to work longer and harder to complete everyday activities. This includes activities that might involve remembering, concentrating, balance, vision or general thinking skills (such as returning to school, using a computer or playing sports).

How long does it take to recover from a concussion?

Most people with a concussion recover quickly and fully. During recovery, you may have a range of symptoms. Some symptoms may appear right away. Others you may not notice for hours or even days after the injury. You may not realize you have trouble with certain things until you try to do your usual activities again.

What are the symptoms of a concussion?

You might notice the following symptoms:

Physical

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Visual problems
  • Balance problems
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Numbness/tingling anywhere in the body
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness

Thinking

  • Feeling mentally foggy
  • Problems concentrating
  • Problems remembering
  • Feeling more slowed down

Emotional

  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • Feeling more emotional
  • Nervousness

Sleep

  • Drowsiness
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Sleeping less than usual
  • Trouble falling asleep

What are some ways I can help myself recovery from my concussion?

With time and by following these recommendations, most people can return to their usual activities and routines. Ask your care team how long they may expect your recovery to be.

Rest

  • Get lots of rest. Go to bed at the same time on weekdays and weeknights. Do not stay up late at night.
  • Take 2-3 rests per day. Then, slowly return to school and other activities. Avoid napping because it disrupts your nighttime sleep.

Food and drink

  • Drink lots of fluids.
  • Unless your doctor has told you otherwise, eat carbohydrates or protein to feel full and to keep your blood sugar levels steady.

Activities

  • As symptoms get better, you can slowly return to your daily activities. If your symptoms worsen or return, lessen your activities. Then, in 1-2 days, try to increase your activities again.
  • Limit activities that require a lot of thinking or concentration. These activities may make your symptoms worse. Examples are video games, screen time/television, reading, class work or job demands. If these activities do make you feel worse, take breaks from the activity. As you recover, you should need shorter and fewer breaks.
  • Start back to regular activities gradually (over time). Listen to your body as you increase your activity. Take breaks when you need to. Take it slow with activities that might include loud music, places with a lot of people, loud noises or active environments.
  • Make sure to get up and move around frequently during the day. For example, try to take a short walk. Limited amounts of activity can help your recovery. If you have trouble with balance, have someone join you.
  • While increasing, your physical activity is important and may improve your symptoms, it is important to avoid any activities that could cause another head strike. Examples of physical activity to avoid include:
    • Physical education classes
    • Sports practices
    • Weight training
    • Running
    • Exercising
    • Playground activities
    • Bike riding
    • Rough housing with siblings
    • Amusement park rides
  • DO NOT RETURN TO SPORTS UNTIL YOU ARE CLEARED BY YOUR DOCTOR.

Emotional health, mental health and stress

  • Feelings of stress can make you feel worse. Use relaxation techniques to help manage your stress level.
  • After 2-3 days of rest after your injury, participating in social activities with friends that do not place you at risk for a head strike can help with recovery. Try to do activities that do not require much physical activity, like playing board games or card games or enjoying a meal together. Take breaks as needed.
  • During your recovery, it is normal to feel frustrated and sad when you do not feel right, and you can’t be as active as usual.

Rev. 5/2022. Adapted from Gioia & Collins (2006). Acute concussion evaluation care plan. Retrieved from the CDC's ACE Care Plan,CDC Heads Up Series and the CDC's Traumatic Brain Injury Patient Instructions. MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.