The Center for Disease Control also requires that this special medical clearance follow a five-step return to play program. Under this heavily monitored program, the athlete gradually increases exercises and activities until he or she is symptom free.
- Step 1 – Light Aerobic Activity –Increase the heat rate slightly, and for only about 5 or 10 minutes. This is achieved through light jogging, walking, or the use of a stationary bike.
- Step 2 – Moderate Activity –Move the head and the body, and not feel concussion like symptoms. This is achieved through moderate jogging, stationary bike, and weightlifting
- Step 3 – Heavy Non-Contact Activity – Increase intensity of the workout, but still refrain from contact. Patients try to get back to their typical workout routine with high-intensity workouts such as stationary bike, and weight-lifting
- Step 4 – Practice and Full Contact – The goal for Step 4 is to immerse the player into full contact practice and monitor how he/she handles it.
- Step 5 – Return to Competition
Athletes can only move on to the next step if they are not experiencing any concussion symptoms, so it is important that athletes are consistently monitored throughout each step. If concussion symptoms return while participating in any of these Steps, the athlete must immediately stop all physical activity and wait until they are symptom free for a full 24 hours.
Most patients should fully recover from their concussion – some taking longer than others. However, if the symptoms have not gone away after two weeks, the symptoms get worse, or the patient has had multiple concussions, then it would be in best interest of the player to see a specialist.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Managing Return to Activities,” (February 8, 2016).[Link]