Getting Kids with Concussions Back on Track
Kimberly knew something was wrong with her 15-year-old son, Reuben. He was confused and not making sense. “I asked him what was wrong,” she recalls. “Then, he remembered a letter from school, still in his backpack, notifying us that he’d hit his head during a basketball game at school three days earlier.”
Reuben’s pediatrician recommended immediate follow-up with Children’s National Hospital’s Safe Concussion Outcome Recovery & Education (SCORE) Program. Reuben and his mom met with Drs. Gerard Gioia and Christopher Vaughan, both neuropsychologists.
“Every visit was extremely thorough and involved a battery of physical and cognitive tests,” says Kimberly. “The doctors explained everything to me and made me feel safe and supported, like my son was getting the best care possible.”
To recover, Reuben would need to balance rest and breaks with school work, sports and activities. But his teachers and coaches pushed him to get back to work. “They seemed to think I was faking it and slacking off,” Reuben says. “I started thinking I was exaggerating my symptoms.”
He pushed through, but headaches and nausea returned. Dr. Gioia reassured Reuben that his symptoms were real. “Having him back me up helped me trust myself,” Reuben says. Dr. Gioia began communicating with Reuben’s teachers and coaches. He helped them understand that Reuben needed to limit his workload, involvement in sports and exposure to bright lights and noise.
Working with our SCORE program helped Reuben recover and learn to advocate for himself. Over the next two years, he had three additional concussions. Dr. Gioia continued to work directly with his school.
Reuben, now a junior in high school, has returned to sports full throttle. “I know how to keep my brain safe now,” he says, “and if anything happens, I have help.”