Giving Thanks for our Team, Plus Many Schools Lack in Return-to-Learn Guidelines

by Tony Doran, Psy.D.
HeadFirst Concussion Care Program Director

If this is your first time looking at our blog or visiting the HeadFirst website, we are one of the premier community-based concussion clinics in the country that provides education, evaluation, and treatment of traumatic brain injuries for children and adults ages 2 and up.

Our overall staff commitment to excellence is reflected in the teamwork and service to HeadFirst patients and their families.

Headfirst has seen thousands and thousands of patients this year, has conducted community outreach events with more than 180,000 attendees, provided thousands more ImPACT® concussion baseline tests, and is submitting our fifth research project for publication.

What we do in HeadFirst doesn’t happen by magic….

Providing care to this many patients requires an effort of our entire team: from the support of CEO Dr. Robert G. Graw, Jr., and Senior Medical Officers Dr. Stanford Coleman and Dr. Marc Weber, to Chief Creative Officer and Program Advisor Amy Knappen, to Director of Clinical Services and Training Lauren Burkhead, FNP, to all the medical providers and staff in our clinics. The collective effort of our entire team has lea HeadFirst Sports Injury and Concussion Care to experience tremendous success over the past year.

At this time of the year of giving thanks, I am truly blessed and thankful that I work with such a wonderful team of dedicated and motivated professionals.

I recently received this article from a fellow professional that highlights the widely varying policies of school preparedness for dealing with concussions.

The study was conducted at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and surveyed 695 public high school principals about their knowledge of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). The findings highlight both good news as well as some opportunities for improvement.

For example:

  • Less than half of those surveyed had taken a concussion management training course
  • About a third of schools provide families with written plans
  • Less than a quarter provide potential academic accommodations to students
  • 80% had case managers assigned to students with concussions, who are usually a school nurse or athletic trainer
  • 86% could identify someone at their school who communicates with students’ health care providers after a concussion in an athlete, while only 79% could make that same identification if the injured student was a non-athlete

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Researchers also noted that preparedness plans shouldn’t concentrate only on school athletes. There is often a greater awareness of return-to-play guidelines than return-to-learn, although students should return to academics before returning to sports. Researchers felt that these findings highlight the need for guidelines governing return to academics.

It should be noted that, presently, only Nebraska and Virginia have return-to-learn laws in place, while all 50 states have return-to-play laws.

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Parents need to be their child’s best advocate and ensure that they get accommodations from their doctor for continued school success.  mTBI is the only injury that affects a child’s ability to continue to be successful at school. This injury requires the collective effort of those working closely with the child to be in constant communication, which include the parents, nurse, teachers, and health care providers treating the child’s mTBI.

How Much Do Athletes Know About Concussion Symptoms?

by Tony Doran, Psy.D.
HeadFirst Concussion Care Program Director

Only a few studies have ever been conducted to examine the efforts that hospitals, universities and communities are making to educate children about the symptoms of a traumatic brain injury. Fortunately, the University of Florida is one of the few institutions who has done some work in this area. Their recent survey of 334 varsity high school football players from 11 Florida high schools uncovered some interesting, yet unsurprising, results.

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The conclusion that University of Florida researchers drew was that most of the high schoolers did not know or could not associate some of the symptoms that they might experience with a concussion, including nausea, neck pain, and trouble concentrating.

In fact, even with parents or guardians signing a consent form indicating they discussed concussion awareness with their child, nearly half of the study’s athletes suggested they had not.

At HeadFirst Concussion Care, our own research team recently conducted a brief survey at a local high school during the athletes’ annual sports physicals.

Our team asked high schoolers if they knew the difference between various medical injuries, including orthopedic injuries, cardiac emergencies, mTBI’s, and dehydration.

We found that these youth athletes had some knowledge of mTBI but we also learned that many of the teenagers in our sample were uninformed about dehydration and cardiac emergencies.

Conducting this research is so important because it shapes the ways we can improve our education and training.  Knowledge is the most important key to reducing the number of concussions, especially multiple traumas.

Monitoring educational programs in high schools, middle schools and recreation programs is extremely important to HeadFirst so we can find out where to direct our educational efforts to keep children, parents and coaches informed.

HeadFirst-Doc-is-InIs it OK to drink alcohol or smoke a joint ever now and then with a mTBI?

As a former military guy, I’m nearly duty-bound to remind others that using cannabis is still illegal in Maryland. This, in itself, should provide additional motivation for avoiding the drug.

As a dad, I’m stunned that more private schools in the area don’t conduct mandatory random drug tests.

Research is still ongoing, but adding chemicals to the brain, including cannabis, when it is injured and recovering would most likely add to one’s recovery time. I recommend staying away from all brain stimulants and depressants while recovering from an mTBI. This includes not only cannabis and alcohol, but also caffeine products.  — Dr. D.