Concussion Recovery from a Sports Injury

A concussion is an injury to the brain caused by the brain shaking against the skull when it receives a blow or jolt to the head.

A concussion is an injury to the brain caused by the brain shaking against the skull when it receives a blow or jolt to the head. You do not have to hit your head or lose consciousness to suffer a concussion. An athlete can suffer a concussion in any sport, even when wearing protective gear. An athlete who has suffered a concussion should be removed from play immediately. 

If symptoms haven’t gone away after 3 weeks, our Post-Concussion Rehabilitation Program can help you return to your sport by gradually advancing treatment until it’s safe to return to a sport.

Concussions affect people differently. Symptoms can occur immediately or may take days to appear.

Physical symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Light headed, dizziness, loss of balance
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision or light sensitivity
  • Tiredness or sleeping problems

Cognitive/Emotional symptoms

  • Trouble remembering things
  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating
  • Personality changes: irritable, tearful, anxious, withdrawn
  • Slowed thinking or speech

What do I do if I think I have a concussion?

A concussion is an invisible injury. First, get a thorough evaluation by your school’s athletic trainer, school nurse, doctor, or appropriate health care professional. Then, get some rest. Most concussions heal with physical rest and cognitive rest: Limit screen time (cell phone use, TV, playing video games) reading, listening to music. 

How long does it take to recover?

80% of people fully recover within 2-3 weeks with just rest, but symptoms can last for several months. Recovery may take longer for people who have had multiple concussions or have other health problems.

What if my symptoms don’t go away?

If symptoms haven’t gone away after 3 weeks, therapy may help you return to your sport. 

When is it safe to return to sports? 

An athlete may not recognize or might minimize symptoms. Returning to a sport is often the primary goal, but a concussion can also affect day-to-day activities such as school and homework. An athlete should not return to sports until he or she is symptom-free at rest and has successfully completed the MSHSL’s Return to Play progression program.

Post-Concussion Rehabilitation Program

This program helps people whose symptoms last more than 3 weeks. Our team of physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists and athletic trainers will help you understand and manage concussion symptoms. Therapy restores normal function by gradually advancing treatment until it’s safe to return to a sport. At the end of the program, athletes will participate in workouts similar to what they would do in their respective sport such as running, jumping, quick change of direction, recognition of plays or other mental tasks to ensure player readiness.

Concussion Treatment 

Athletic Training Treatment

An athletic trainer will be one of the first medical professionals to evaluate an patient for a suspected concussion. A thorough examination utilizing multiple tests will be conducted to determine a diagnosis. The athletic trainer will follow the patient through the entirety of the recovery process, conducting re-evaluations and implementing additional measures to improve quality of life for the athlete as well as combat symptoms. Athletic trainers may use the following for diagnosis/treatment of concussions:

  • ImPACT testing, VOMs exam, BESS test and SCOAT6 diagnosis tool to thoroughly evaluate an injured patient
  • Provide resources to the patient and parents for initial injury management
  • Utilize modalities and manual therapy in the athletic training room
  • Communicate with school faculty to ensure academic accommodations can be created for symptomatic patients
  • Tailor recovery protocol to accommodate specific patient needs
  • Oversee/facilitate patient advancement through the return to play steps (see bottom of page for step progression)
  • Able to assist in referring patients that have extenuating symptoms past 10-14 days


Physical Therapy Treatment

A Physical Therapist makes a comprehensive evaluation to be sure it’s safe and appropriate to proceed with therapy to improve balance, eye coordination and neck movement and your specific challenges, using:

  • Massage for shoulders and neck
  • Joint mobilizations (restore mobility to surrounding joints)
  • Visual exercises
  • Balance exercises
  • Strengthening of neck, shoulder, back and core


Occupational Therapy Treatment

An Occupational Therapist conducts standardized evaluations to identify cognitive problems with memory, attention, information processing and problem-solving.
Then your therapist tailors treatment to improve your specific challenges. We develop different ways you can complete tasks so you can participate as fully as possible in sport, school and home during your recovery.


Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) rule about return to play (Subject to change)

  • Once free of symptoms of concussion, a six-step exercise progression is required before a player can return to competition.
  • Each step requires a minimum of 24 hours before progressing.
  • The player can proceed to the next level only if he/she continues to be free of any symptoms at the current level.
  • If any symptoms recur, the player should drop back to the previous level.

Return to Play Protocol/Stepwise Progression 

  1. Activities of daily living with symptom mitigation. Avoid activities that trigger symptoms. Once symptoms have subsided, proceed to level 2.
  2. Light aerobic exercise such as walking or stationary cycling. No resistance training. 
  3. Sport-specific exercise (skating for hockey, running for soccer) with progressive addition of resistance training at steps 3 or 4. 
  4. Non-contact training drills. 
  5. Full-contact training after medical clearance.
  6. Game play.