What to know about recovering from concussion
People fully recover from concussion within 1 month in most cases. Some factors can help recovery, including getting plenty of rest and eating a healthful, high protein diet.
A concussion can occur due to certain types of traumatic brain injuries. Head trauma can damage the brain due to direct force or when the brain rapidly shifts or turns. Causes include falls, blows, or shaking.
Though they can sometimes be mild, doctors consider concussions to be traumatic brain injuries (TBI), and people should always take them seriously.
Concussions are not rare and have several risk factors, including among people who play sports. While symptoms may linger for a few weeks, most people usually make a full or almost full recovery.
Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that TBIs accounted for
This article looks at the timeline and stages of concussion recovery and offers tips to help speed up the recovery process.
After a concussion, the majority of people recover from the initial symptoms within 2 weeks to 1 month.
Longer term effects are unusual, though an estimated 20% of people will experience persistent symptoms of post-concussion syndrome, where their symptoms last for more than 6 weeks.
The symptoms and the amount of time it takes for them to go away may differ between people and between concussions. Each concussion is different, even for the same person, and the path to concussion recovery will vary for every individual.
Common symptoms of concussion include:
- problems with vision and balance
- difficulty thinking and concentrating
- mood changes
- changes in sleeping habits
- increased sensitivity to sound and light
Not all concussion symptoms will be noticeable right after the injury, with some not appearing until days or weeks later.
Right after a concussion, in what doctors call the acute phase, experts recommend 24–72 hours of rest. During this time, individuals need to cut back on all their activities, from work and school to sports and housework.
People should not take any medication without a doctor’s advice. In addition, someone who has suffered a head injury should not be left alone for the first 48 hours.
After this acute phase, people can begin to start returning to their normal lives. However, they need to do so slowly and gradually to make sure they do not overstress or reinjure themselves.
People should check with their doctor to see when they can:
- go back to work
- drive a car
- make important decisions
- travel in an airplane
- resume athletic activities
- drink alcohol
Concussion recovery can be more complicated for athletes. Some doctors may recommend as little as 7–10 days of healing before returning to play, although research from 2018 found that full recovery from concussion averaged
If someone does not seem to be recovering fully from a concussion after several weeks, they should see a doctor again to check for post-concussion syndrome.
One of the critical factors affecting concussion recovery is the severity of the original injury. In general, the more severe the injury, the longer it takes to recover.
Rest is essential for anyone recovering from a concussion, no matter how young or how strong they are.
Trying to do too much too soon can interfere with healing, and returning to vigorous exercise too soon increases the danger of a repeat brain injury, with potentially much more severe health consequences.
Eating a healthful diet can promote concussion recovery. The Headway Foundation, a nonprofit organization promoting safer sports, recommends the following foods:
- protein to support healthy brain function
- fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin E to support the nervous system
- fish, nuts, and other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids to promote brain healing
Some factors interfere with concussion recovery. These include:
- a history of concussions
- preexisting neurological problems
- age, as it takes older adults longer to recover in general
The following are seven tips for concussion recovery:
- The most important thing is to take the injury seriously and see a doctor for a thorough evaluation.
- The next vital step is to get plenty of rest. It is essential to have a good night’s sleep each night and take breaks throughout the day, particularly when doing tasks that may tax the body and the brain.
- A healthful diet is more important than ever during concussion recovery. The body and especially the brain need nutrients to recover from the injury. It is important to drink plenty of fluids to keep the body hydrated and to avoid alcohol.
- Taking time off from sports is essential for effective concussion recovery. It can be harmful to place too much strain on the body, and it is dangerous to run the risk of reinjury, especially when you are not functioning at your best.
- Sometimes, people with concussions can suffer from nausea. Products made from ginger, such as ginger chews and ginger ale, can help settle the stomach, although they do not help in healing a concussion. Read about remedies for nausea here.
- After a concussion, it is helpful to reduce significantly the amount of time spent in front of a screen, whether it is a computer, smartphone, or television. The flickering of these devices can cause eyestrain and headaches,
- Patience is essential during the healing process. Keep in mind that, over a short time, most people can expect to make a complete recovery.
People sometimes describe concussions as mild brain injuries, but they must treat them seriously and take steps to help their recovery. It is important to seek medical care and follow a doctor’s instructions.
Most people with concussions will experience a complete recovery, but the length of time it takes the body and mind to heal can vary. In most cases, someone will recover within a month. In rare cases, recovery can take longer than 6 weeks, which is known as post-concussion syndrome.
During the process of concussion recovery, people can begin to return to their regular activities. However, they should do so slowly and cautiously, especially when it comes to sports.