Though it is now widely understood that any student athlete who suffers a head injury should be kept off the playing field until a doctor has cleared them to return, it was never investigated whether the same logic should apply to other activities such as attending school.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, while students may seem physically fine after sustaining a concussion, it is often difficult for teachers and school administrators to understand the extent of the child’s injuries. In many cases, children who have sustained serious blows to the head may need academic adjustments and may encounter trouble learning new material or remembering even simple things they have just been taught.
Not only do children struggle with absorbing new information following a concussion, a study, conducted by a professor of orthopedic surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, found that returning to academics too soon can actually worsen concussion symptoms. The study suggests that a typical school-aged child will take around three weeks to fully recover from a concussion.
While the AAP does not suggest that every child stay home from school following a head injury, the group does say that those who are suffering especially severe symptoms might be better off if they stayed home to recuperate. In these serious cases parents should consider making alternative arrangements with the school to ensure that the child does not fall behind schedule but is allowed an opportunity to heal.
In cases where the head trauma is somewhat less severe, children can return to school but administrators should be flexible and responsive to possible changes to the student’s course load until he or she has fully recovered. In these cases, the AAP is clear that the length of time away from sports should be longer than the time away from academics given the serious potential for sustaining another head injury.
Though it can be time-consuming for parents and teachers, the AAP notes that concussions are unique and that a plan of action should be specific to each student. Parents, teachers and doctors should work together to construct a plan that is best for each child and be willing to make changes to typically rigid school schedules if the need presents itself. By doing this, children who have sustained head injuries due to sports injuries or other traumas such as car accidents, have the chance to fully recover and reduce their risk of suffering long-term damage.