How Long Does a Concussion Last?

A concussion is an injury that can disrupt normal brain function. Concussions are known to bruise and stretch the blood vessels, and can occur due to an injury, jolt, or blow to the head directly. They can also occur if the head forcefully jerks to the side, forward, or backward.

Depending on the severity of the injury, there is a loss of normal brain function, and the effects from a concussion can last for days, weeks, or longer.

This article discusses how long concussions can last.

reviewing concussion symptoms

Mediaphotos / Getty Images

Types of Concussions

There are five grades of concussions, which are grouped according to symptoms. The following explains the grades and symptoms:

  • Grade 0: An individual has difficulty concentrating or has a headache.
  • Grade 1: The concentration and headache continue, along with a dazed feeling that lasts for a minute or less.
  • Grade 2: The dazed feeling lasts longer than a minute, and there may be amnesia, confusion, ringing in the ears, dizziness, and/or irritability. 
  • Grade 3: There is a loss of consciousness for a minute or less.
  • Grade 4: The loss of consciousness is a minute or longer.

Along with the grades of a concussion, there are particular subtypes that have treatment options:

  • Cognitive: The symptoms include impaired reaction with memory and attention issues. The treatment is a neuropsychological assessment and follow-up.
  • Ocular-motor: The symptoms include eye pain, difficulty judging distances, sensitivity to light, headache, eye strain, problems focusing, and blurred or double vision. The treatment includes vision training with an optometrist.
  • Headache/migraine: The symptoms include sensitivity to light, sound, or smell, as well as nausea and vomiting. The treatment includes headache management.
  • Vestibular: The symptoms include lightheadedness, nausea, fogginess, dizziness, disequilibrium, and vertigo. The treatment includes vestibular-ocular training with a physical therapist.
  • Anxiety/mood: The symptoms include sadness, irritability, fatigue, feeling overwhelmed, and a feeling of hopelessness. The treatment includes cognitive behavioral therapy and counseling.

Danger Signs

If an individual has a concussion or symptoms that last for several weeks, it is important to see a healthcare provider. If you have any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention immediately:

  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Inability to wake up
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Continuous nausea
  • Headache gets worse over time or doesn’t go away
  • History of numerous concussions
  • Symptoms that are worse or not improved after 10-14 days

Returning to Normal Activity

When a person has a concussion, physical and mental rest is ideal. It is natural to need more rest and sleep than usual, however research has shown that too much mental rest can extend the recovery period and make the return to normal activities more difficult.

It is recommended to start engaging in activities slowly. As a person starts to engage in activities, if symptoms of the concussion appear, it is time to rest and limit activities that worsen the symptoms.

Regular activities that a person participated in before the injury should begin when they can be tolerated. If there is a high concussion grade, the activities should be avoided for the first two weeks.

A healthcare provider will consider both the physical and cognitive activities before allowing a person to participate.

Ease Back Into Activities

Symptoms can worsen if an individual returns to their normal activities too soon.

Returning to Sports

If an individual is an athlete, research has shown that if the concussion symptoms are improving each day, they can begin to start adding cardiovascular activities that are low level. These activities include:

  • Walking
  • Biking on a stationary bike

As improvement continues, the athlete can increase the activity level with the help of a physical trainer who can determine how much the athlete can tolerate when it comes to returning to sports and exercising.

For student-athletes, they can return to their activities when they are:

  • 100% symptom-free at rest
  • 100% symptom-free with normal mental activity
  • 100% symptom-free with exercise
  • No longer taking any medications for concussion symptoms
  • Fully back to school and able to tolerate schoolwork
  • Have a physical exam and balance test that are within normal limits
  • Have been cleared for play by a healthcare provider trained in evaluating and managing concussions

Concussion Protocol

Concussion protocols are procedures and policies from an organization that is required to care for an individual who has a head injury. The organization’s healthcare providers are the people who make sure the protocol is followed properly.

Other professionals and individuals that could be involved include:

  • Trainers
  • Counselors
  • Teachers
  • Parents
  • School nurses
  • Rehabilitation specialists

This protocol is typically associated with an injury from sports.

Passing Baseline Tests and No Symptoms

The purpose of baseline testing is to assess an athlete’s brain and balance function. This includes:

  • Memory skills
  • How long the person can concentrate
  • How quickly they can solve problems and think

This testing also includes an examination to check for the presence of concussion symptoms.

Stretching and Balance Training

During this phase, the athlete can participate in aerobic exercise to increase the heart rate. They cannot lift weights at this time. Activities include:

  • Light jogging
  • Walking
  • Riding on an exercise bike

Training Mimicking Sports

This phase allows the athlete to increase activity and the heart rate. Moderate movements are allowed, including:

  • Jogging
  • Brief running
  • Moderate-intensity stationary biking
  • Weightlifting

When reintroducing weightlifting, it should be less weight and time from the typical routine.

Contact-Free Drills

This phase allows the athlete to participate in:

  • Sprinting/running
  • Their regular weightlifting routine
  • Stationary biking

During this time, the athlete can participate in three planes of movement/non-contact sport-specific drills.

Cleared by a Neurologist

Once the athlete is cleared by a neurologist, they can return to regular activity.  

Tips for Healing

When healing from a concussion, it is important to follow the plan that your healthcare provider has shared.

The first thing is mental and physical rest. Learn the activities that may trigger the concussion symptoms. With each activity, start slowly. If there is difficulty, limit the activity that makes symptoms worse.

Things to Avoid

As an individual is recovering from a concussion, it is important to rest and heal. Avoid:

  • Intense movements
  • Watching television
  • Listening to loud music
  • Texting
  • Reading
  • Taking a trip on an airplane
  • Using the telephone
  • Drinking alcohol

If there are any questions regarding activities to avoid, contact your healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a concussion feel like?

Depending on the severity, a concussion feels like a headache or pressure in the head. 

What are the symptoms of a concussion?

Some of the symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Changes in sleep pattern
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Tiredness

Why can’t you sleep after a concussion?

Although physical and mental rest is important to heal from a concussion, research has shown that too much rest could make a patient sensitive to activities that they are used to doing.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cleveland Clinic. Concussion. Updated June 2, 2020.  

  2. University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Pointers Health Service. Head injuries/concussions. Updated August 2020.

  3. Stanford University Magazine. The five types of concussions. Updated March 2020.  

  4. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Concussion.

  5. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention. FAQs about baseline testing. Updated February 16, 2015.

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recovery from a concussion. Updated February 12, 2019.