New patients text “Appt” to 714-377-4314 to schedule an Evaluation! 

The protocol of returning to play after a concussion



Schedule an AppointmentView Services

Have you recently sustained a head injury while playing sports? After hitting your head, concussion therapy can be crucial to making a full recovery. Receiving the right treatment can have a major impact on your recovery timeline and the future of your sports career. The symptoms of a concussion are often intense and may limit your ability to engage in physical activities. Common symptoms include headaches, nausea and vertigo. To address these issues and work toward lasting relief, it is important to seek professional care.

When it comes to addressing a sports injury affecting your head, physical therapy can be a great source of tailored treatment. Your physical therapist can guide you through the return to play protocol for your concussion. Physical therapy’s holistic approach is designed to meet your needs each step of the way as you work to achieve your recovery goals. Learning about some of the most important steps of your recovery journey can help you gain a better understanding of the process.

Return to play protocol for concussions: 6 essential steps

  • Rest and evaluation — After a concussion, evaluating your injury is a vital first step. Depending on the severity of your injury, emergency medical care might be necessary. Immediate care can help you get stabilized and establish a baseline for recovery. Once your condition is stable, resting is essential. Your physical therapist can work with you to develop a recovery timeline from here. With return to sport therapy, you can follow the necessary protocols while steadily regaining your ability to play after the concussion. Resting will likely be a major aspect of your treatment plan, especially for the period immediately following your injury.
  • Cognitive rest — A concussion is a traumatic brain injury. If you have sustained a concussion, it is important to rest your mind as well as your body. Concussion symptoms can include a heightened sensitivity to external stimuli. Loud noises and bright lights may cause pain and trigger headaches. To avoid worsened symptoms, try limiting your exposure to intense stimuli. Keeping screen time to a minimum can be helpful. You may also want to limit activities that require significant mental effort. Try to give your brain a break. Your physical therapist can help you integrate habits that allow for cognitive rest.
  • Gradual activity — Once your symptoms begin to fade, you can start making a gradual return to physical activities. Increasing your activity level at a gradual rate is key to following the standard return to play protocol after a concussion. Your first activities should be light, noncontact exercises. Vertigo, a common concussion symptom, can make it hard to feel steady on your feet. Your physical therapist can guide you through balance and gait training to help you regain control. With a flexible personalized treatment plan, you can work with your physical therapist to adjust treatment as needed. As you make progress, you may continue to increase your level of activity. During this time, it is important to continually monitor for symptom recurrence. If any activities trigger your symptoms, you should stop immediately and tell your physical therapist.
  • Symptom-free period — You should be symptom-free before returning to play. For your safety, following protocol after a concussion involves carefully monitoring your condition. If your concussion symptoms are gone for a long enough period, you may be able to return to play while adhering to protocol. Resuming activity while your symptoms persist can prolong your recovery timeline and heighten the risk of further injury. Once you have been free of symptoms for the period advised by your care team, you can start returning to your normal activities.
  • Progressive return to play — Depending on the severity of your concussion, you may not want to fully return to play all at once. Following the protocol laid out by your physical therapist and other health care professionals can sometimes mean gradually returning to your sport. To help with your progressive return, you can reintroduce sports-specific drills and exercises.
  • Performance monitoring — Ready to make a full return to play? Even once you are engaging with sports again, it is important to be aware of your condition. If any of your symptoms return, you should disengage from your activity and continue treatment. Your physical therapist can help monitor your condition during the period following your return to sports. Occasional assessments may help ensure that you maintain a consistent level of performance and safety.

Follow the steps for return to play protocol after your concussion with help from REPAIR SI

Are you ready to start your journey toward recovery? At REPAIR SI, we are committed to helping each patient heal and improve their condition. With our help, you can alleviate your concussion symptoms and experience recovery.

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.