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Young athletes are students first, and returning to school after an injury is as important – if not more so – as returning to the field of practice or play. It is important that teachers, school nurses and school officials coordinate and monitor the treatment of injured students to be sure recovery is complete.
- All concussions are serious.
- Most concussions occur without loss of consciousness.
- Recognition and proper response to concussions when they first occur can help prevent further injury.
- When in doubt, sit them out.
Returning to School
Students who have been injured often need additional support to perform school activities during their recovery. After a concussion, teachers, nurses, counselors, school psychologists and administrators should watch for:
- Problems paying attention or concentrating
- Problems remembering or learning new information
- Longer time needed to complete tasks or assignments
- Greater irritability and less ability to cope with stress
- Increased symptoms (headache or fatigue) when doing schoolwork
The Importance of Full Recovery
Full recovery should be documented with an assessment by a health care professional before the student returns to a full academic schedule.
Full Recovery Definition
- No active post-concussive symptoms (physical and cognitive) at rest or with exertion
- Neurocognitive functioning is back to pre-injury level
- No problems with balance or coordination
- No other associated medical or neurological complications
Incomplete Recovery Risks
Children or teens who still have symptoms and who return to school without a plan for supporting their learning are at risk for delayed recovery and at risk for ongoing problems with learning and performance. Please consult with a health care professional about any child or teen’s readiness to return to school.
What Children's National Offers
The Children’s National SCORE Concussion program partners with school officials across the DC/Maryland/Virginia region to support them in recognizing and responding to concussions in their student-athletes. If you are interested in learning about concussion education or further consultation please contact us.
Frequently Asked Questions for Schools
It depends on the type and severity of your child's symptoms, and how those symptoms respond to doing the cognitive (thinking) activities of school. If at all possible, it may be best to stay out of school the first few days after a concussion to determine what kinds of activities the child can handle. Many children miss a few days, then return to school for a partial day, and gradually increase to a full day as their symptoms can tolerate. The simple rule is that if the mental activity worsens the child's symptoms, the activity should be avoided or reduced.
It is important to explain your child's injury and the types of symptoms to all key school personnel. A child who returns to school with symptoms (e.g., headache, tiredness, difficulty concentrating) is not ready to participate fully in all school activities, and should not be expected to take exams or quizzes. They may need to put their head down during class or be excused to rest in the nurse's office. The CDC School Toolkit, available on the web for free, is a great resource to help schools understand this injury.
The kind of school help will depend on the kinds of symptoms your child is experiencing. The school accommodation plan should be individualized for your child. The kinds of supports your child needs will change throughout recovery as the symptoms improve. Some common accommodations include rest breaks, shortened days, reduced homework, modified or no tests, provision of notes and outlines, and extra time for assignments and tests. Certainly, early on after the injury, it may be necessary for your child to stay home from school entirely in order to maximize rest.
Resources for Schools