Guest Post: Beth Pieroth, PsyD, ABPP –Academics Performance After Concussion

Monday, September 10, 2012 9:21 AM comments (0)

Concussion-AcademicsConcussive injuries in sports have been a hot topic for a number of years.  As of July 2011, a new Illinois State law requires that any athlete who exhibits the signs of a concussion must be removed from that practice or game, and cannot be returned to play until he or she has been cleared by an appropriately trained healthcare professional.  However, the law makes no mention of academics and most youth athletes will attend school before they are cleared to return to the field of play.  Our attention should then turn to addressing the issues of injured students.

A concussion occurs when a person suffers a blow or force to the head that results in changes in his or her mental status; this includes confusion, disorientation, memory or mental cloudiness.  The individual may complain of headache, dizziness, nausea, visual changes or fatigue, and may experience problems with attention and memory.

It is often difficult for a newly concussed student to manage the demands of school and their grades may suffer if their injury is not appropriately addressed. If a student athlete suffers from a concussion the following steps for an optimal recovery are recommended:

  • After the student has been evaluated by an emergency room physician, primary care physician, athletic trainer or a concussion specialist, have them rest.  They should avoid stimulating activities, such as loud televisions or music, video games or computer use. 
  • It is often best to allow the student to stay home from school for a few days.  The noise and chaos of a school environment, along with the demands of focusing in the classroom, can cause an increase in the student’s symptoms.  Many students will attempt to go to school, only to end up in the school nurse’s office with a headache.
  • If symptoms are manageable, I encourage students to return to school.  Missing too many days of school will often result in increased anxiety about the amount of schoolwork to be made up and isolation from friends.  However, it is recommended that the students not be required to complete homework, quizzes or tests during the acute recovery period. 
  • Most students will require brief academic accommodations, typically 1-2 weeks.  Some may not require any accommodations because they do not have significant cognitive deficits from their concussions.  However, a small percentage of students will benefit from additional accommodations and this should be handled on an individual basis.  The student should undergo cognitive testing to better determine that type of impairment he or she is experiencing and ways to manage the symptoms.
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