Concussions on the Field, Repercussions in School
The latest question for researchers studying the
consequences of concussions isn't when student-athletes can safely
get back in the game. It's how long to wait before they can return
New research suggests concussion effects may linger weeks after
symptoms of dizziness and headaches have disappeared. School-safety
experts are focusing attention on the impact of concussions on
classroom performance. A small study of 28 patients by New York
University researchers published earlier this year in the journal
Radiology found that brain changes could be detected up to a year
after even one mild concussion.
Brain-injury specialists say the mental exertion of normal
classwork could even worsen the effects of a concussion. The harder
students recovering from a concussion try to focus on any mental
activity, the more severe their headaches or dizziness may
The cognitive effects of a blow to the head on the playing field
can temporarily make focusing on studies, taking tests or listening
in classrooms more difficult, several pediatric neurologists said.
Concussion-related memory problems, mental sluggishness and
inability to focus can affect grades, SAT scores and placement test
"A concussion is an academic injury, in the sense that it
affects the capacity for learning," said pediatric
neuropsychologist Gerard Gioia at the Children's National Medical
Center in Washington. "There are rarely times in school when these
concussion issues do not have some potential effect on a kid's
grades and academic pursuits."
This fall, the U.S. Institute of Medicine is expected to release
a major report on sports-related youth concussions that will offer
recommendations for new research and clarify treatment options,
including ways to safely return students to their normal academic
But so far, schools have little data to guide academic recovery.
Among other issues for researchers is the fact that not all
concussions affect the brain the same way.
Still, almost every concussion leaves the brain unable to easily
handle normal mental chores.
"When we place demands on a student's brain, that can cause
symptoms to spike," said Brenda Eagan Brown, program coordinator
for a return-to-school concussion program organized by BrainSteps,
a program offered by the Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania.
The state department of health and the department of education fund
References and further information