Pediatric HealthSource: Concussion Recovery in Children

In most cases, kids no longer need to stay isolated in the dark as long as proper precautions are taken.

Sean Rose, M.D.
Consult your child's physician for concussion recovery advice.

Q: My daughter recently suffered a concussion. Is it still true that she needs to stay still in a dark room to recover well?

A: Mild traumatic brain injury, or concussion, is commonly caused by sports and playground equipment mishaps or falls in the home as young children develop physically. It used to be common practice to stay in a dark room after concussion, with no stimulation during recovery. But this “cocoon therapy” can breed more problems, due to an abnormal sleep schedule, lack of exercise, stress from missing school and social isolation.  These days, recovery instructions are developed for the specific needs of each patient. It can be hard to find the right balance between rest and activity after concussion, so an experienced physician guiding recovery is important.

Generally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that children with concussion spend the first couple of post-injury days limiting physical and mental activities. Light exercise within the first week of injury is likely helpful. As your child starts to feel better, they can gradually increase both physical and mental activities, including school. Your doctor can request temporary accommodations in class while your child is recovering from a concussion.

Once concussion symptoms are nearly gone, your child should be back into most normal activities, including a regular school schedule. It is not until your child is able to do all their regular activities without experiencing symptoms that physicians consider them to be fully recovered. Your child should not engage in activities that could result in another head injury (such as contact sports) until they are cleared by a physician.

Always consult your child’s pediatrician concerning your child’s health.

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Sean Rose, M.D., is a pediatric sports neurologist and a co-director of the Complex Concussion Clinic at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Sean Rose, M.D.

Safety Tips

Keep your child safe from brain injury with the following tips:

  • Safe rides – Make sure that your child is always fastened into a properly installed, age- and size-appropriate car or booster seat when riding in any vehicle.
  • Safe sports – Your child should always wear a helmet that is made specifically for their activity. Check often to make sure that it fits correctly. While there is no “concussion-proof” helmet, the use of helmets greatly reduces the risk of brain injury and skull fracture.
  • Safe environment – In the home, use gates at the top and bottom of stairs to prevent curious infants and toddlers from dangerous falls. Outside, try to choose playgrounds with soft bases such as mulch, rubber or sand rather than grass or dirt.