U of O
The Center on Brain Injury
Research & Training

Sports Concussion in Youth: What Educators Need to Know

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A concussion is a mild brain injury and should be taken seriously. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1.6-3.8 million sports-related brain injuries occur each year in the United States. The majority of these are concussions. Of the reported brain injuries, approximately 65% occur in children aged 5-18 years. Children are more vulnerable to brain injury and are at greater risk for increased injury severity and prolonged recovery. 

Most concussions occur without a loss of consciousness, but they may result in a wide range of symptoms, including physical signs (headaches, nausea/vomiting, balance problems, dizziness, light sensitivity, slurred speech, blurry/double vision), emotional changes (irritability, depression), cognitive impairment (difficulty thinking clearly or concentrating) and sleep disturbances (frequent awakening, insomnia). Most athletes recover within a week or two from a concussion, but some have symptoms that can linger for weeks or even months. 

Return to Learn Guidelines 

Returning to academics should involve monitoring of cognitive effort followed by a gradual increase in activity. In some cases, cognitive rest with limited access to computers, video games, cell phones, TV, and texting might be appropriate.  

The most current approach is to permit any cognitive activity that doesn’t worsen symptoms. The return to academics process should be monitored to control for cognitive overload. Students recovering from concussion will benefit from academic adjustments and flexible schedules. Returning to a normal work load too soon can prolong symptoms and slow recovery time.