Kids With Concussions Should Take a Timeout From School

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There’s a push to help kids who get a concussion during a game to sit out, but the latest research says these kids need to be cautious about returning to the classroom as well.

Although children may appear to be physically normal after having a concussion, they may actually have trouble learning new information and retaining it. Going back to school may exacerbate these symptoms, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in a new clinical report presented at the AAP National Conference & Exhibition in Orlando.

Research shows that it takes about three weeks for a child to fully recover from a concussion. If their symptoms are especially severe, they should stay home from school. Even though kids with concussions may appear asymptomatic, they often report difficulty focusing on schoolwork and taking tests, especially in math, science, and foreign-languages. Medical experts are worried that too much learning stimulation can overwhelm a brain that is still recovering, and make it even more difficult for a child to get back on track. If systems are mild, parents can consider sending their kids back to class, but should inform teachers about the concussion so adjustments can be made to the pace of the class if needed. The researchers call this necessary step, “cognitive rest.”
And even after a child is reintegrated into school, the researchers say they should be allowed adequate time to make up missed assignments, and the overall volume of the make-up work should be tailored so as not to overwhelm them and harm their learning.
“Every concussion is unique and symptoms will vary from student to student, so managing a student’s return to the classroom will require an individualized approach,” said lead study author Dr. Mark Halstead in a statement.

There’s still not much research on the effects of concussions on learning, so the AAP based its recommendation on expert opinion and data emerging from the concussion management program at the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, Center for Concussion in Denver, Colorado.

The researchers say more research on the long-term effects of concussions are needed, especially about how they might impact children in the classroom, to better inform guidelines for parents, coaches and teachers.