One of the first questions an athlete will ask following injury or illness is, "When can I play again?" The answer is rarely quick or simple. Return-to-play decisions can be controversial and a source of conflict between health care providers and others. Return-to-play decisions that are too strict, too lenient, or too arbitrary can lead to unhealthy and unsatisfactory outcomes.

For some medical conditions and some sports, there are specific policies in place that help guide return-to-play decisions. However, most return-to-play decisions involve unique circumstances that cannot be fully addressed by generic statements.

The following is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) providing guidance on when an athlete can return to play after an injury and can be used in situations where general guidance is not sufficient. The answers to many of these questions require input from a doctor. However, understanding the process helps athletes and families work...

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