After a diagnosis with a sports-related concussion, the athlete should avoid not only physical activity but also any mental tasks that exacerbate their post-concussive symptoms. Most concussive symptoms resolve on their own over 7-14 days. When athletes have no symptoms at rest, they can begin a graded return to activity/play. This is a step-wise plan that advances the complexity of their physical activity while monitoring closely for any return of symptoms. It is best for this return to play to be supervised by a doctor or athletic trainer.
If an athlete has had a prior concussion, more caution should be taken in clearing them to return. Athletes who have had one concussion are up to three times more likely to sustain another and to have a more prolonged recovery from any subsequent concussions. Of particular concern are concussions that recur within the same season, often a sign that the athlete was cleared to return too soon. Studies have found that more than 80% of same-season concussions occur within 10 days of the first one, when the athlete is most vulnerable. Particularly concerning are the potential long-term neurological effects of multiple concussions, which include a greater risk for cognitive impairment and chronic headaches.