Most children who experience a blow to the head that leads to concussion recover well, within a week to two, says Robert Cantu, M.D., clinical professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Boston University Medical School and cofounder of its Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Center. 

More on concussions

But what's the appropriate concussion treatment? Here's what experts advise if your child or teenager sustains a concussion while playing contact sports such as tackle football, soccer, or hockey.

Got hit? Get him out of the game. If your child receives a head blow during game play, you (or other adults) should take him or her out of play and check for symptoms such as headache, lethargy, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and confusion or disorientation. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, athletes should not return to play on the day of a concussion, even if symptoms resolve.

Get medical attention. If you suspect a concussion, bring the child to a healthcare provider, who can assess the injury and advise you on concussion treatment. But call 911 or head to the emergency room for any youngster who loses consciousness, even briefly; is very drowsy or vomiting; or experiences blurred or double vision, persistent and worsening headache, disorientation, tingling on one side of the body, one pupil that's larger than the other, weakness, or difficulty with balance, language, hearing, or speech. 

Skip the scan, most of the time. Imaging tests of the brain won't show whether your child has a concussion or not, says neurologist Orly Avitzur, M.D., Consumer Reports medical director. According to Choosing Wisely, which encourages doctor-patient discussion and is a partner of Consumer Reports, a neurological exam that includes questions about the injury and the symptoms experienced can pinpoint concussion.

In concussion treatment, scans may be needed if the doctor suspects a skull fracture, brain bleed, or other significant injury; or if your youngster is unconscious, has been in a car or other serious accident, exhibits strange behavior, or is experiencing hearing or vision loss, or tingling on one side of the body.

Let them rest, but not completely. We’ve long heard that after a concussion, people should rest their bodies and brains. But when it comes to optimal concussion treatment, too much rest may not be helpful. A study published last year in JAMA, which looked at more than 3,000 children who'd been diagnosed with concussions in ERs, suggests that those who'd done no physical activity in the first seven days after injury were more likely to have persistent symptoms a month later than those who had been physically active during that time.

“Data shows that it’s okay to have some physical activity a day or so after a concussion," says Frederick Rivara, M.D., M.P.H., who is professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and Seattle Children's Hospital. "Complete rest is shown to increase, not decrease, the duration of symptoms.”

UpToDate, an online decision-making tool for doctors, recommends 24 to 48 hours of rest after a concussion and then a gradual return to “non-contact, non-risk” physical activity. (Think walking, for example, not skateboarding or contact sports.)

In terms of rest for the brain, “Aside from a day or two of not spending a lot of time watching TV or video games, there’s no good evidence that this is effective,” says Rivara. But if either mental or physical activity leads to a resurgence of symptoms, back off, wait a day or two, and try again.

Get kids cleared before they return to play. The American Academy of Neurology recommends waiting until all symptoms have subsided and no medications—such as pain relievers—are needed. The organization also suggests that a healthcare professional trained in the diagnosis and management of concussion give his or her okay. It's important to take the time that's needed: Youngsters are at higher risk for another concussion if they haven't fully healed from the initial concussion, and that can lead to serious injury.

Take action when symptoms linger. Some 15 percent of youngsters may have symptoms that persist for months, and a smaller group may have issues for more than a year, says Cantu.

If your child is still having symptoms after about 10 days, begins to have more significant symptoms from lighter head blows after the initial concussion, or you are unsure whether it's a concussion or another problem, UpToDate recommends seeing a specialist in pediatric concussion. These include neurologists, physiatrists, and sports medicine specialists.