Currently, the recovery plan for the common types of concussions doctors see in emergency rooms is simple: rest. Rest your brain and rest your body, stay away from bright lights and loud noises, and let your brain heal.
As we’ve learned more about the biological processes that occur during and following “mild” traumatic brain injuries though, the recovery process should be updated to reflect the complex nature of the injury and further encompass the different levels of healing while gradually returning patients to activity.
As CBC News reports, Dr. Charles Tator created a six-step plan for Canadian doctors to follow when treating concussion patients that does just that. Tator, brain injury expert from the neurosurgery department at the University of Toronto, recently wrote on the importance of training health professionals to recognize and detect the brain injuries.
Tator is most interested in informing health professionals of the newer evidence that makes it clear that concussions can occur without direct impact to the brain. It is common for the shaking or whiplash motion of the head during a hard hit or fall to be the actual cause of brain injury.
Beyond simply educating doctors on the condition, Tator established a six-step plan to help treat non-severe traumatic brain injuries and slowly move patients back into their day to day life.
- No activity – Complete physical and mental rest from stimulation and stress such as play, work, or school.
- Light exercise – Walking, swimming, and stationary cycling are good activities to begin easing the body back into activity without stressing the brain.
- Sport-specific exercise but no head-impact sports – While the brain is healing, athletes can slowly return to exercises and drills specific to their sport, but it is important to protect the head from any hits for an extended period as the brain is still healing, even as symptoms dissipate.
- More vigorous but non-contact training.
- Full-contact practice – Once cleared by a physician, athletes can return to regular practice routines.
- Return to competition
Under Tator’s plan, the earliest a player can return is after one week, but it is common and recommended for patients with more moderate or long-lasting symptoms to take longer before returning to play.