For ambitious high school athletes, a concussion can be a disappointing setback. But new research about the amount of healing time and other concussion-related hazards has this takeaway message: Be patient. Young athletes typically miss a month of activity after suffering a concussion.
Researchers at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit studied about 350 high school students who had reported being diagnosed with a concussion at least once between 2013 and 2016.
The typical concussion patient in their study was a 15-and-a-half-year-old boy who was hurt playing football, hockey or soccer. Football accounted for more than one-quarter of all concussions and one-third of the teens evaluated by the study had a previous concussion.
For a first concussion, the time needed to fully recover was about one month. The recovery time increased for subsequent concussions.
Historically, the rate of reported concussions among all adolescent athletes has been 5%. However, more recent research shows that about 20% of young athletes have had at least one concussion, many of which were not diagnosed at the time.
The researchers noted that concussions also aren’t just about head injuries. Non-contact, lower-body injuries are more common due to balance issues after a concussion. Younger athletes who get a concussion also are more likely to have longer-term effects from subsequent concussions.
While other factors need to be considered, the 30-day recovery guideline can be a good baseline for parents, coaches and athletes as well as for team physicians or doctors to use in determining whether a young athlete can return to the field after a concussion.