Are You Treating Your Kids’ Concussions Wrong?

If your child has just suffered a concussion, your first instinct is probably to have them resting and relaxing to help them recuperate ASAP. And while that was the norm for a long time, now the recommendation for children recovering from a concussion actually reduces the amount of rest. CanChild, a McMaster University research institute, just released new guidelines. “For children, recovering from a concussion is like a snakes and ladders game, as there are times where they may have rapid improvement and climb through the steps more quickly, and other times where returning symptoms mean they have to take a slide back,” study author Carol DeMatteo, professor of rehabilitation science and a CanChild researcher, said in a statement. “Our new research, along with our review of studies from all over the world, has led us to update the guidelines for recovery, and we have different but compatible guidelines for returning to school and for returning to activity including sport. Families have always felt the recovery instructions were too restrictive and difficult to follow. We now know that too much rest after concussion is not a good thing, and children can begin some activity sooner as long as they don’t overdo it and make their symptoms worse.”

During the first 24 hours after a concussion, kids can do home and leisure activities, though they should be limited to just five minutes and be stopped immediately if the symptoms become worse, according to the updated suggestions. The new guidelines have three different recovery options depending on the type of concussion: Kids who don’t show any symptoms within 48 hours of the concussion, those who have no or decreased symptoms within one to four weeks, and children who have symptoms for more than four weeks. Each concussion type has a detailed recovery plan that is broken down into stages, each with its own goal, which activities are allowed, and how to recognize when it’s safe to move on to the next circuit. For example, during stage two and getting back to school, kids can walk, socialize with a couple of friends for up to half an hour, and have either 15 minutes of school work or screen time twice a day. In Canada, where the research took place, the average age a kid suffers from a sport-related concussion is 13 and a half years old.

Even though there are general guidelines, it’s crucial for parents to remember that every child is unique and needs their own individualized recovery plan. Everyone moves at their own pace, and the severity of the concussion as well as their symptoms need to be considered. “In addition, we’ve shown, based on our research, the average time to move through each stage towards return to school and return to full activity or sport,” DeMatteo said in a statement. That return can take from anywhere from 48 hours to six weeks or longer, so know that it might take a while for your kid to get back on his feet.

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