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Coping with concussions beyond the field.

A student athlete with a concussion doesn't face challenges only in returning to play. Their injury also can hinder their performance in the classroom, and administrators must make sure students who need rest or have to work more slowly are able to keep up with schoolwork during recovery.

The rate of reported concussions for U.S. high school athletes more than doubled between 2005 and 2012, according to a study published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine.

"It isn't 'just a concussion' like we used to think years ago--it can have significant impact on a student's academic performance," says Leslie Seymour, an epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health and co-author of a September study on student concussion rates in the Twin Cities. "There's been a lot of national attention on taking concussions seriously and allowing them to heal before returning to play. What our focus needs to be on is the return to learning."

Administrators should appoint a staff member to act as a concussion case manager, Seymour says. Concussion symptoms, including headache, temporary loss of consciousness, confusion, dizziness and nausea can last days to weeks or even months for some, according to the National Institutes of Health.

This person can coordinate with parents, nurses, counselors and teachers to ensure the student is getting what they need in school. These adjustments may include giving the student extra time to complete a test, or allowing them to wear sunglasses or a baseball cap in class if they are experiencing sensitivity to light. Students recovering from concussions may also need to work in a quiet room away from peers, or may need to leave the classroom periodically to rest, Seymour says.

Athletic trainers from 36 Twin Cities Metro public high schools reported 730 concussions in 2013-14 in the state-mandated study, published in the journal Minnesota Medicine. Researchers projected an estimated 3,000 concussions statewide that year, or 22 per school, compared to the national average of 19 concussions per school. Football accounted for 42 percent of concussions in the Twin Cities, which is similar to national data, Seymour says.


Undiagnosed dangers

Athletes with undiagnosed concussions who continue to get hit in the head are at increased risk for long-term cognitive impairment and diseases such as dementia and Parkinson's later in life. The National Football League released a study in September reporting that one in four professional players are likely to end up suffering dementia, Alzheimer's disease or other cognitive impairments during their lifetime.

Concussion risk is lowered when student athletes avoid activities such as head-first tackling in football or hitting opponents in the head in hockey, says Steven Broglio, lead author of the National Athletic Trainers' Association position statement on concussions.

Still, "a certain number of injuries will happen, because of the sport," says Broglio, who also directs the University of Michigan NeuroSport Research Lab. "When they do happen, the academic staff needs to be made aware of what's going on and allow for academic accommodations."

More at concussion/headsup

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Title Annotation:News Update
Author:DeNisco, Alison
Publication:District Administration
Date:Nov 1, 2014
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