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Sports-Related Concussion: Helping Student Athletes Succeed in School

No matter the game or activity, sports-related concussions remain a concern for student-athletes, coaches, and parents.

After a concussion, it's vital to both rest and challenge your brain. This balance of rest and activity to heal the brain often includes helpful, short-term changes at school.

The following adjustments can help during active treatment to retrain your brain to adapt to uncomfortable stimuli, such as light and noise.

Contact the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program

To learn more about concussion treatment or make an appointment with a UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program expert:

A Prescription for Academic Accommodations

If a doctor diagnoses your child with a concussion, teachers or school administrators can make some changes to help in their recovery.

A health care provider trained in diagnosing and treating concussions must prescribe these academic accommodations. This would be someone like the concussion experts at the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

They've dedicated their care and research careers to concussion diagnosis and management.

There are 6 types of concussion, each with a number of unique factors. Our concussion experts will craft a custom treatment plan to fit your student-athlete's needs and goals.

Adjustments Schools Can Make for Students with Concussion

The following changes can help students suffering from a concussion. Each student may not need every item listed.

Classes and activities

  • Excused absence from classes. Partial attendance options include missing elective classes to focus on core classes, coming into school later, or leaving earlier.
  • Lengthened assignment deadlines. Speed of processing and the ability to handle a full workload are often key constraints. Allow extra time for homework and class projects.
  • Temporary help of a tutor for organizing and prioritizing homework assignments. Students may have problems planning their studies, including writing papers and preparing for tests. A short meeting with a guidance counselor or an assigned tutor may help students plan out their work.
  • Rest periods during the school day. Just 30 minutes of rest in the nurse's office or an appointed area can help lessen many students' symptoms.
  • Special classroom seating to lessen distraction. Sitting up front or away from doors and windows can help those with attention problems and other concussion symptoms.
  • Accommodations for oversensitivity to light or noise. Many students find themselves unable to endure normal levels of light or noise while healing from concussion. Fluorescent lighting can cause headaches. Students should try to avoid noise from cafeterias, assembly halls, or band rooms
  • Excused from team sports practices and gym activities. Students should complete their treatment program and have a concussion expert clear them before returning to sports and activities. Their concussion expert should provide proof of return-to-play clearance.

Tests and exams

  • Postponing or staggering tests. Taking tests while still having concussion symptoms often places recovering students at a distinct disadvantage. It may also cause heightened or prolonged symptoms.
  • Excused from certain tests. Some students are so symptomatic that postponing or staggering tests may not help. If a student was doing well in class before their concussion, it might be best to excuse them altogether.
  • Extended test-taking time. Reduced processing speed is one of the most common post-concussive symptoms. Students may benefit from extra time to finish tests.
  • Tape-recorded tests. The concentration demands of reading or scanning can worsen concussion symptoms. Recorded tests let students listen at their own pace. They can stop and start the tape for each question and process test questions without the stress of reading.
  • Dictated test answers via recording or scribe. Due to the visual and concentration demands of writing, some students may better convey their answers to essay questions via dictation.
  • Use of smaller, quieter exam rooms to reduce stimulation and distraction. During the recovery period, students display some of the traits often seen in ADHD. They're more vulnerable to distraction by routine sights and sounds that occur in larger exam rooms. Taking tests with smaller groups or alone may help.