Median Time to Return to Sports After Concussion Is Within 21 Days in 80% of Published Studies

Published:November 25, 2022DOI:


      To perform a systematic review of the literature and evaluate the return to play (RTP) time frame after a concussion diagnosis. Our secondary purpose was to analyze and compare different prognostic variables affecting concussions, time to return to school, time to symptom resolution of concussive symptoms, and time each patient spent in the RTP protocol.


      A PubMed, Scopus, Medline, Embase, and Cochrane Library database literature review was performed in August 2022. The studies needed to report, in days, the length of time a patient/athlete was removed from play due to concussion management. The Risk of Bias in Non-Randomized Studies of Interventions tool was used for risk of bias for each study, and Methodological Index for Non-Randomized Studies criteria were used for quality assessment.


      There were 65 studies included in the systematic review and a total of 21,966 patients evaluated. The RTP time intervals ranged from 1 to 1,820 days, with 80.7% of the median RTP time frames for each study within 21 days. Preconcussion risk factors for prolonged RTP included female sex, younger age, presence of psychiatric disorders, and history of previous concussion. Postconcussion risk factors included severe symptom scores at initial clinic visit, loss of consciousness, nonelite athletes, and delayed removal from competition. The most common sports resulting in concussion were contact sports, most commonly football and soccer. Median time to return to school was 3 to 23 days. Median time to symptom resolution ranged from 2 to 11 days. Median time in RTP protocol was 1 to 6 days.


      Median time to return to sports after concussion is within 21 days in 80% of published studies.

      Level of Evidence

      IV, systematic review of Level I to IV studies.
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