June 20, 2017

A Need for Proper Recovery: The Potential Long-Term Impact on Academic Performance for Concussion Patients

The growing stigma associated with long-term engagement in contact sports leading to injuries is influencing parents and even the athletes to limit their level of play. Although the risks are important to consider, there are measures that can be implemented to ensure student-athletes overcome their symptoms. More focused research over the past decade has exposed the increased risk student-athletes have, particularly football players, to long-term brain damage if their injuries are not properly managed. Since child safety is paramount, it is important to understand how insufficient recovery time and mistreated brain injuries can create problems that extend to other situations. How can the onset of concussions affect school performance?

Obviously, the immediate repercussions of a head injury are going to interfere with a student’s academic engagement. The headaches, nausea, sensitivity to external stimuli, etc., are enough to exacerbate difficulties in the classroom. What most may not realize, however, is that these cognitive difficulties can prevail following what patients believe to be the end of their recovery. Although not as severe as those recently exposed to trauma, concentration and attention problems can still remain prevalent. The severity of the injury will dictate the length and extent of their difficulties, but it is far too common for concussion patients to try and jump right back into their old routine. Their symptoms may appear to have subsided, but without gradual acclimation, problems can persist. Activities such as note taking in class, adhering to deadlines, and completing homework assignments can be a growing burden that both frustrates and discourages these individuals.

Although the prospect of taking more time away from school can be foreboding, the long-term risks associated with academic performance outweigh the potential stress of workload buildup. After a traumatic injury, our bodies want to return to homeostasis. Treatment options facilitate the natural, organic processes our brains employ for recovery. These processes, however, can be disrupted without a proper transition period. Recovery phases should be individualized and the timeframe should be monitored to mitigate future memory and cognitive issues.

This is not to discourage athletes from pursuing a career in their sport, but to emphasize that concussion patients should take any form of head injury seriously regardless of how mild it was diagnosed as. A targeted study focusing on students of a variety of ages found that an insufficient recovery time could perpetuate a decline in academic performance. When dealing with safety, the primary focus should be ensuring that precautions are not spared.

With proper consultation and specific academic accommodations, concussion patients can return to their academic routines, but it is important that they are willing to accept the necessary protocols to minimize any long-term problems. Talk to their teachers and help them understand the situation. Collaborate with them to ensure a personal plan is developed to provide the student with a detailed and proper timeline to mitigate stress. As he or she gradually renters their academic environment either through shorter school days, flexible deadline extensions, etc., be sure to wait for the consultation from a clinician before the next steps are taken. The implications can be frightening, but with a targeted procedure they can be avoidable and safety of the student ensured.


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