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The Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors (COP/C) held its annual December meeting in Indianapolis on Sunday and took what it described as “another step toward improving student-athlete welfare when it approved a conference recommendation to establish enhanced concussion protocols.”
The concussion protocols will move from best practices and minimum requirements for schools to regulatory standards by the conference. In addition, the COP/C unilaterally adopted the establishment of an independent neutral athletic trainer in the replay booth with their own monitor and the ability to directly contact officials on the field. The independent neutral athletic trainer will be in addition to the continued presence of on-field doctors and athletic trainers from each institution.
The enhanced concussion protocols will be incorporated by reference into the existing conference-wide concussion management policy and will include reporting requirements, disciplinary action for non-compliance and a higher level of accountability for conference member institutions.
The adoption of enhanced concussion protocols “is the latest step by the conference to further ensure the safety of student-athletes.”
In May 2010, the Big Ten became the first conference to establish a conference-wide concussion management plan for use by conference institutions. In April 2011, the Big Ten and the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) conducted the first of a series of head injury summits at the conference office, with 40-plus attendees across several disciplines. In June 2012, the Big Ten and Ivy League, in conjunction with the CIC, announced plans to engage in a co-sponsored, cross-institutional research collaboration to study the effects of head injuries in sports.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released a new clinical report that suggests that student athletes may need to take a break from the classroom after suffering a concussion.
In the clinical report, “Returning to Learning Following a Concussion,” released late last month at the AAP National Conference & Exhibition in Orlando, the AAP offers guidance to pediatricians caring for children and adolescents after suffering a concussion.
“Students appear physically normal after a concussion, so it may be difficult for teachers and administrators to understand the extent of the child’s injuries and recognize the potential need for academic adjustments,” said Mark Halstead, MD, FAAP, a lead author of the clinical report. “But we know that children who’ve had a concussion may have trouble learning new material and remembering what they’ve learned, and returning to academics may worsen concussion symptoms.”
Research has shown that a school-aged student usually recovers from a concussion within three weeks. If symptoms are severe, some students may need to stay home from school after a concussion. If symptoms or mild or tolerable, the parent may consider returning him or her to school, perhaps with some adjustments. Students with severe or prolonged symptoms lasting more than 3 weeks may require more formalized academic accommodations.
The AAP recommends a collaborative team approach to help a student recovering from a concussion. This team should consist of the child or adolescent’s pediatrician, family members and individuals at the child’s school responsible for both the student’s academic schedule and physical activity. Detailed guidance on returning to sports and physical activities is contained in the 2010 AAP clinical report, “Sport-Related Concussion in Children and Adolescents.”
A symptom checklist can help evaluate what symptoms the student is experiencing, and how severe they are.
“Every concussion is unique and symptoms will vary from student to student, so managing a student’s return to the classroom will require an individualized approach,” said Dr. Halstead. “The goal is to minimize disruptions to the student’s life and return the student to school as soon as possible, and as symptoms improve, to increase the student’s social, mental and physical activities.”
Because relatively little research has been conducted on how concussion affects students’ learning, the AAP based its report primarily on expert opinion and adapted it from a concussion management program developed at the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, Center for Concussion in Denver, Colo. The AAP calls for further research on the effects and role of cognitive rest after concussion to improve understanding of the best ways to help a student recovering from a concussion.