PhotoPlaying fields aren’t the only places concussions can happen. In fact, most concussions happen to non-athletes. Car and bicycle accidents, fights, and even minor falls are just a few of the jarring events that can cause a temporary disruption in brain function.

If your child experiences a concussion, chances are you’ll want to do everything in your power to expedite their recovery. However, a new survey commissioned by UCLA Health finds that most parents follow outdated advice on treating concussions.

Heeding outdated advice, such as waking children during the night and keeping them sedentary during the day, may actually cause further harm.

Making symptoms worse

The way parents care for children with concussions has changed drastically over the years, says Dr. Christopher Giza, a pediatric neurologist and director of the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program.

"In the past, there was often a tendency to downplay the significance of concussions. Now some parents go too far the other direction and, despite their best intentions, they can inadvertently complicate their child's recovery."

What outdated advice are parents following?

  • Restricting activity. 84% of parents would restrict any physical activity the week after a concussion
  • Limiting screen time. More than half said they would limit screen-time on electronics
  • Not letting kids sleep. 3 out of 4 parents said they would wake their child throughout the night to check on symptoms

But while parents may mean well, UCLA experts say taking these precautions may actually slow a child’s recovery from a concussion.

Easing back into activity

So what can parents do to help kids recover from a concussion? After a period of initial rest, parents should allow kids to gradually ease back into cognitive, physical, and social activity.

"We certainly don't want them to go back to playing contact sports right away, but gentle aerobic exercise like walking the dog, easy hiking or riding a stationary bicycle is actually good for them," Giza said. "Being active can help children improve their mood, take their mind off their symptoms and restore a sense of normalcy."

When caring for a child with a concussion, parents should: 

  • Let them sleep. You might have heard that letting a kid go to sleep with a concussion can lead to brain swelling, but following this advice for too long could be harmful. “If you’re still waking your child up throughout the night more than a week after the injury, you’re doing more harm than good,” says Giza.
  • Encourage exercise. Aerobic exercise, such as walking the dog, swimming laps, or jogging are good for children recovering from a concussion.
  • Give them time to socialize. Giving kids the opportunity to quickly ease back into their social circles is crucial. This might mean allowing them to spend a little more time on social media.

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