Psychologist Says Youth Concussion Treatment Needs to Focus on Return to Learning

April 12, 2018 05:55 PM

For about a decade, much of concussion management has been focused on what's called "return to play" - or getting youth back to their sport.

But one psychologist says there hasn't been enough focus on "return to learn."


Karen McAvoy spoke Thursday at the annual Statewide Brain Injury Conference in Brooklyn Center.


She said the focus needs to be on much more than getting young people back to sports after hitting their heads during a practice or in a game.

Like getting back to the classroom, which she said needs to happen before kids head back to the ice, court or field.

"The good news is 70 percent of kids with a concussion will get better in 28 days," McAvoy said. "But during that time, they might have symptoms. And we really want to support them physically, as well as academically, at school."

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She said new research shows that during the first month after a concussion, youth can struggle to remember what they're learning, as well as while taking their exams.

McAvoy said the primary focus has been mostly on headaches and dizziness, and the dangers of getting back to sports too soon.

"But it's also in the area of cognitive - difficulty remembering and thinking," she said. "And energy and management. So being very tired and fatigued. And then emotional - being a little bit more irritable, being a little bit more sad.

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"Those are all symptoms of concussion."

To help students, McAvoy wants schools to jump on board this new push and do things such as cut down work slightly, or let those recovering take some rest breaks.

She said that will keep the students at school and learning, but still comfortable, while resolving their concussion.

McAvoy also urged schools, parents and health care professionals to be aware of new research that shows about 40 percent of children can get concussions from non-sports related injuries - such as falling in the shower, car accidents or assaults.


Brandi Powell

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