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Concussion Return to Play Protocol in High School

In sports, injury and trauma are unfortunate and inescapable occurrences, as they often require a lot of force and speed to succeed. One of the more dangerous types of trauma one can experience is a concussion. Being a severe functional head injury, it can seriously impede the function of one’s brain and might lead to life-long complications or sometimes death (CDC, 2019). As such, a concussion should not be taken lightly, and special guidelines for both treatment and recovery procedures exist. This paper attempts to outline and describe the steps to recover from this injury and return to play, in regards to school, college, and the NFL.

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Describing the general procedures, the steps for recovery are as follows. After a period of rest, the person resumes their regular activities, such as work or study. First comes rest, as it is important to give the body sufficient time to recover and gather its strength. After the symptoms of the trauma have subsided, it is suggested to start easy aerobic physical activity, in small amounts and regularly (CDC, 2018). The small physical activity should gradually shift to a moderate one, with an emphasis on increasing heart rate and body mobility (CDC, 2018). The heavier activity should be introduced next, with sprinting, biking, and weightlifting gave as an example, though the NFL members should turn to football-based activities (NFL Return-To-Participation Protocol, 2017). The light activity is replaced by weight lifting and conditioning for college students, and drill work after that (Clemson University, 2018). By following such steps, the athlete will be able to return to his/her normal sports regimen after a medical assessment and take part in competitions soon after. The return to play for the NFL players is regulated by the Team Physician and an Independent Neurological Consultant (NFL Return-To-Participation Protocol, 2017). The return-to-play time of an individual highly varies based on the severity of his/her trauma and age, with minimum recovery time being 24 hours and the maximum – more than 30 days.

The specific differences between return-to-play time and guidelines between schoolchildren, college students, and NFL players should also be mentioned. According to statistics, school students are the most likely of the three groups to spend either 24 hours or more than 30 days in recovery, with college students usually placing somewhere in-between the two extremes (Kerr et al., 2016). The recovery for school and college students is centered not only on the physical improvement but also on the patient’s ability to engage in academic activity. The management of the recovery of an NFL player is a lot more strictly regulated than the other two, with special exercises being implemented, and the staff physician regulating the process every step of the way (NFL Return-To-Participation Protocol, 2017). Regular tests of performance are being mandated, and the patients are expected to strictly adhere to the set schedule.

Overall, the steps for recovering from a concussion and returning to play are similar at all levels of the sport. They all require the patient to follow a set regimen with a slowly increasing strain on the body, emphasizing heart exercise. Each of them has a set of differences, be it in a curation of the process or the specific exercises being recommended. However, the time needed for one’s recovery is mostly subjective and is determined on a case-by-case basis.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018) Managing Return to Activities. CDC. Web.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019) What Is a Concussion? CDC. Web.

Kerr, Z. Y., Zuckerman, S. L., Wasserman, E. B., Covassin, T., Djoko, A., & Dompier, T. P. (2016). Concussion Symptoms and Return to Play Time in Youth, High School, and College American Football Athletes. JAMA Pediatrics, 170(7), 647. Web.

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NFL Return-To-Participation Protocol. NFL Play Smart, Play Safe. (2017). Web.

Clemson University. (2018) Concussion Management Guidelines. Clemson Tigers. Web.

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