Children's Hospital Colorado

Helping Kids Recover from Concussion

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury caused by a forceful blow or jolt to the head that disrupts how the brain normally works. A person does not need to be knocked out or lose consciousness to have a concussion. Symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • Balance difficulties
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Irritability, moodiness or anxiety
  • Mental fogginess
  • Nausea
  • Sensitivity to noise or light
  • Sleep changes
  • Slowed thinking

Concussion Comeback

Read and download the Concussion Comeback book to learn how to help students succeed in their recovery from a concussion.

Returning to school after a concussion

Concussed young athletes should undergo a thorough clinical examination soon after injury. As long as an appropriate healthcare provider is involved, your child may return to school even with mild symptoms.

“Keeping a child out of school for a long time often causes unintended academic, social and emotional problems,” said Michael Kirkwood, PhD, Co-Director of the Concussion Program at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “There’s no compelling research to indicate that complete rest is an effective treatment for concussion.”

Soon after injury, a designated period of reduced activity and rest may be beneficial, but most children won’t need to miss many days of school. For students who could benefit from a gradual transition, returning for an hour or two at first may be worthwhile before building to half-days and then full days.

You may want to designate a school nurse, counselor or teacher to be your child’s “comeback coordinator” — someone who monitors your child’s school performance and behavior and leads communication between you, the school staff, your child’s coach and your family’s healthcare provider. As needed, you should also work with the school to reduce or modify classroom and homework assignments and grant additional time for assignments or exams.

Returning to play after a concussion

“Athletes need clearance from a qualified healthcare provider to return to sports participation,” said Julie Wilson, MD, Sports Medicine Specialist at Children’s Colorado. “Once concussion symptoms resolve, physical activity is gradually advanced over a period of several days, beginning with light activity and increasing back to full participation as tolerated.”

Your child should remain symptom-free without medication before proceeding to the next level of participation. If symptoms recur, wait until the symptoms resolve for 24 hours, and try to progress activity again.

Leading the way in concussion care

Children’s Colorado’s Concussion Program is committed to evidence-based, interdisciplinary care tailored to the individual patient, as well as to partnering with referring providers, school personnel and athletic clubs. Our team of board-certified pediatric experts in emergency medicine, sports medicine, rehabilitation, neuropsychology and neurosurgery are joined by certified athletic trainers, psychologists, physical therapists, nurses and other support staff with special training in concussion to offer a streamlined, comprehensive approach to concussion.

“Our program encompasses every stage of concussion care, from on-field evaluations to psychosocial support during recovery,” Dr. Kirkwood said. “Our high clinical volume and emphasis on scientific research and ongoing quality improvement help ensure we are the best pediatric concussion program in the region, and among the very best in the country.”

Learn more about our Sports Medicine Center