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Sleep, Rest, Active Rehab Are Key for Children to Recover from Concussions

Reducing stress can contribute to a timely recovery, says expert from the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders

COLUMBIA, Mo. – School is out for most children and with summer comes baseball, football, soccer and other extracurricular activities. While participation in team sports offers many benefits for children, there also is a major concern for parents: the risk of concussions.

When a child experiences a blow to the head, concussion symptoms might include abnormal behavior, confusion, dizziness or nausea. A common myth about concussion recovery is that a child with a concussion should not sleep through that first night because they might slip into a coma or lose consciousness. Michael Mohrland, pediatric neuropsychologist at the University of Missouri, tells parents to let children with concussions sleep and to get adequate rest after sustaining a concussion as a healthy sleep schedule seems to promote recovery.

“Recovery from a traumatic brain injury is a long, difficult process for the patient, family members and friends,” Mohrland said. “The most important thing that people need to understand about concussions is that there are a lot of factors that can impact recovery, and time for recovery is necessary before returning back to school or sport.”

To help families understand the cognitive and psychological factors associated with concussions, Mohrland helped develop the Concussion Neuropsychology Clinic in the . The clinic provides timely evaluations specific to children and young adults up to 21 years of age who have sustained a concussion at least three weeks prior. Specialized therapy is also offered through a brief treatment model. This therapy focuses on a paced-return to life model rather than focusing on symptoms.

While concussion recovery can vary based on a variety of factors, Mohrland offers the following advice to parents to better understand risks associated with concussions:

Let your child sleep and adhere to a healthy sleep routine, avoiding naps if possible.  

Recovery time can vary. For most middle school students, recovery can last up to three weeks. High school students can recover in about two weeks.

Understand outside factors. Multiple concussions, stressors in and outside of the home, and other social factors can all interfere with timely recovery after a concussion.

Manage stress. Stress reduction strategies along with education related to the nature of concussions and recovery expectations have been shown to aid in recovery.

“When we are evaluating concussions, we have to look at all aspects of a child’s life, including things happening in the child’s home and school,” Mohrland said. “Our goal is to determine a plan that will help the child return to his or her baseline level of activity. Parents need to realize concussions are not ‘one-size-fits-all’.”

For more information about the Concussion Neuropsychology Clinic please call 573-884-6052.