Concussion recovery time among high school and collegiate athletes: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Sports Med. 2015 Jun;45(6):893-903. doi: 10.1007/s40279-015-0325-8.


Background: Concussion diagnosis and management is made through the clinical exam using assessment tools that include self-report symptomatology, postural control, and cognitive evaluations. The specific timing of concussion resolution varies between individuals. However, despite a lack of research in concussion recovery, it is widely accepted that the majority of young adults will recover in 7-10 days, with youth athletes taking longer.

Objectives: The purpose of this review is to directly compare the recovery duration among high school and collegiate athletes on symptom reports and cognitive assessments following concussion.

Data sources: Data were collected from a literature search comprising high school or college athletes only. This included studies (n = 6) that reported symptom or cognitive performance recovery to the exact day.

Results: High school athletes self-reported symptom recovery at 15 days compared with 6 days in collegiate athletes. Both college and high school athletes showed cognitive recovery at similar rates of 5 and 7 days.

Limitations: This review only included articles that were directly related to concussed high school or college athletes. Additionally, athletes in the high school and college setting typically receive a battery of neurocognitive tests that may not be as sensitive or as comprehensive as a full neuropsychological exam.

Conclusion: The review finds that neurocognitive recovery rates are similar among high school and college athletes, while symptom reporting shows longer recovery time points in high school than in college.

Implications of key findings: An individualized and stepwise concussion management plan is important for proper concussion recovery regardless of age.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis
  • Athletic Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Brain Concussion / diagnosis
  • Brain Concussion / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Statistical
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Recovery of Function / physiology*
  • Schools
  • Self Report
  • Students
  • Young Adult