10 Common Activities to Avoid When Recovering from a Concussion

By Ellen McKinnon, FNP-C, and Katelynn Cataldo, AGPCNP-BC

It’s common knowledge that “rest” is the initial staple of the recovery process after a concussion to help your brain heal. However, there are additional restrictions that might not occur to you which we recommend at the Cantu Concussion Center. The following activities have a high potential for re-injury or an exacerbation in symptoms and should be restricted until the person has completely recovered from their concussion and all symptoms have fully resolved. It is especially important for parents of a concussed child to make sure these restrictions are adhered to.

1. Standing in high places (ladders, roofs, furniture, beds, chairs, ski lifts, towers, cliffs, ledges). Often following a concussion, a person can experience dizziness — sometimes without warning — that can be triggered with head or eye movement.

2. Being in an area where objects are thrown. This would include sporting events where there are Frisbees, soccer balls, etc. This could also occur in class rooms or gym class with younger children or people with behavioral disabilities.

3. Jumping up and down repetitively. Quick acceleration/deceleration can be very jarring on the brain and can provoke symptoms. Examples of this would include jumping up and down on the bed, jumping on a trampoline, horseback riding, or using a pogo stick.

4. Roughhousing or wrestling. If you are not cleared to play football, you certainly should not be wrestling with your sibling! Rough play can easily intensify concussion symptoms or result in another head injury or whip lash.

5. Riding a bicycle, tricycle, motorcycle. You should not be cycling until your balance, coordination, reaction time, vision and neck flexibility is back to baseline.

6. Going on amusement rides that rapidly accelerate, decelerate or rotate. Rollercoasters and other theme park rides can be very unpleasant for someone who is in recovery from a concussion. Rides can significantly hurt an already impaired vestibular system (sensory system that detects motion and position of the head to allow for balance and compensatory movements). This could lead to dizziness, vertigo, poor balance, nausea/vomiting and headaches.

7. Skydiving, parachuting, parasailing. Refrain from these adventurous activities until you are functioning 100 percent from a cognitive standpoint. You want to be able to make fast, smart decisions before being hundreds of feet up in the air!

8. Horseback riding. Even the tamest horse should not be trusted to ride when recovering from a head injury. A quick jerk to the head or even the repetitive up and down motion when riding can significantly exacerbate headaches and neck pain.

9. Water skiing, surfing or paddle boarding. Hitting the water at a high speed can feel similar to hitting your head on a hard surface.

10. Snowboarding, skiing, snowmobiling, tubing. These activities require skilled coordination, balance, and normal reflexes to quickly change direction. Concussed patients should stay away from these winter pastimes until they have completely recovered.

Ellen McKinnon is a board-certified family nurse practitioner and Katelynn Cataldo is a board-certified adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner with Emerson Hospital’s Dr. Robert C. Cantu Concussion Center in Concord, Mass. To learn more, call 978-287-8250 or visit emersonhospital.org/concussion.