Sports-related Concussions Treatments

How to Treat a Sports-related Concussion


Sport-related concussion represents a growing problem that affects athletes at the junior and high school, college, professional, and even recreational levels. While most athletes will recover from any cognitive, balance, sleep, and emotional symptoms that result from a sport-related concussion within 14 days, a small minority suffer from long-term disability and pain. The young athlete, who sustains a concussion while competing, may need intensive rehabilitation for cognitive, balance, sleep, and emotional symptoms—occasionally with long-term disability and pain.

Concerted efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local governments, and advocacy groups around the country have drawn attention to the risk for TBIs in sports. Early recognition, screening, and treatment have helped prevent more serious injuries in thousands of children.

Non-pharmaceutical Therapy

The first line of treatment for a concussion, whether this is the first concussion or a repeat concussion, is rest. This includes both physical and mental rest—no schoolwork, videogames or other activities that require concentration. Depending on symptoms, this rest period should last at least 24 hours after injury. Absolutely no athlete should be allowed to return to play on the day of injury.

The International Concussion in Sport Group (CISG)1 has recommended the following sequential steps to assess an athlete’s ability to return to play:

  • No activity
  • Light aerobic exercise
  • Sports-specific exercise
  • Non-contact training drills
  • Full-contact practice
  • Return to play

It is recommended that athletes spend at least 24 hours in each step. But if symptoms return, the athlete should return to the last step for at least 24 hours before moving to the next step.

Symptoms may persist beyond the normal 10-day recovery time in 10%-15% of people with concussions. In these cases, the child should be referred to a health care provider who specializes in sports-related concussions.


Medications are recommended to treat the specific symptoms of concussion (headache, sleep disturbances, and anxiety), when warranted and recommended by a physician. No medication should be taken without the approval of your physician.

For the management of sleep disturbances, it is recommended that people follow good sleep practices:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday
  • Avoid stimulants, such as caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine
  • Do not watch TV or use an iPod, computer or mobile phone in bed

Depression, anxiety, and emotional disturbances are also frequent after concussion. These symptoms usually resolve in the short-run, but if depression last longer than expected, the athlete should be managed by clinicians experienced in managing depression, such as a psychiatrist.

Updated on: 11/19/15