Research Shows Students’ Academics Affected by Concussions

A recent study published in American Academy of Pediatrics June 2015 Pediatrics (published online on May 11, 2015) looked at concussion and its effect on academic performance. The research included a sample of 349 students, ages 5 to 18, who sustained a concussion and whose parents reported post-injury academic concerns on school questionnaires. The type and intensity of the students’ concussion symptoms were measured as an indicator of the severity of their injury.

Researchers found that actively symptomatic students and their parents had heightened concerns over the effects of the students’ concussions on their school performance, as well as increased school-related problems than their recovered peers. In other words, the students’ level of post-concussion symptoms had a direct relationship to the extent of academic effects.

Eighty-eight percent of students with symptoms reported school problems due to headaches, fatigue and concentration issues, while 77 percent reported issues such as needing to spend more time on homework, difficulty taking notes, and studying.

confused_student

Additionally, high school students in the study who had not yet recovered reported significantly more adverse academic effects than their younger counterparts. The greater the severity of their concussion symptoms was also associated with more school-related problems and worse academic effects, regardless of time since injury.

Every state has concussion legislation generally requiring three basic criteria in the event of a concussion:

  • The removal of a child from play
  • A structured return to learn
  • Clearance from a concussion specialist

However, most youth aren’t athletic professionals and many of them do not advance to participate in college and professional athletics. Currently, only Nebraska and Virginia have return-to-learn legislation indicating that concussed athletes may need specific informal or formal accommodations at school and that school personnel should be trained in concussions. In light of students’ limited number of years of sports and because of recent proven research, legislation should be in place in every state to provide more extensive accommodations after a brain injury so that students’ academics are not adversely affected.

To review each state’s legislation, please visit:
http://lawatlas.org/query?dataset=sc-reboot
http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/traumatic-brain-injury-legislation.aspx

Just How Long Do the Effects of Adolescent Concussions Last?

An article in this week’s New York Times blog discussed the findings of a recent study of now middle-aged people who had sustained concussions in their youth.

The long-lasting effects of concussion may have been subtle to the individuals, themselves, but the results of the study spoke volumes to the scientists conducting it.

Researchers from the University of Montreal studied a group of people who’d played high school or college sports 30 years before, some of whom had sustained concussions. In the years since, they remained physically active but had stopped competing. None had complained of failing memory or other impairments more than any other average 50- to 60-year-old.

But, after being given a series of MRI scans to measure the volume of brain segments and the metabolic health of certain neurons, as well as cognitive written and verbal tests, those volunteers who had suffered concussions in their youth were found to have just a little bit more trouble recalling events, words and names more than the volunteers who’d never received a concussion.

Some of those who had been hit in the head in the decades prior were found to have slightly less volume in the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with memory and learning, while others had thinner cortexes, metabolic slowing or cell abnormalities.

The researchers found that the 50-year-old study participants who had been hit in the head had brains that were structurally and metabolically similar to those of uninjured 60-year-olds.

We could conclude that, even with an active lifestyle, people who have received concussions as children could end up having brain function that is older than their chronological age.

Dr. Kevin M. Guskiewicz, chairman of exercise and sports science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, suggests that everyone, whether having sustained concussions or not, exercise their brain to overcome the effects of cognitive aging. “Exercise. Do puzzles. Read. Learn new things. Those are all good for your brain anyway,” he says.