Concussions and kids: Why do they need to ease back into academics?

The awareness of the seriousness of concussions is at an all-time high because of the deleterious results on long-term mental health to serious athletes with repeated concussions.  Football players most prominently, but also ice hockey players and even baseball players are showing severe early decline in mental function as they enter their fourth and fifth decade of life.

But most concussions do not happen to professional and college athletes, they happen to children who play football, lacrosse, hockey and soccer in vast numbers and often without special skills or good training.  And the aftermath can be quite serious and prolonged immediately, not just decades later.

A concussion is a brain injury occurring after a blow to the head that results in temporary loss of consciousness, confusion, hallucinations, amnesia and/or sensory impairment – decreases in vision or hearing quality, ringing in ears, imaginary smells and so on.  Children have thinner skulls and more vascular brains and can sustain these injuries at lower levels of impact than adults. 

Parents should be aware that it’s not easy for a child to return to academics after a concussion. For many with post-concussion problems, it is very difficult for them to return to some school subjects, especially in quantitative fields such as math. The American Academy of Pediatrics published a commentary earlier this week for parents on the problems associated with returning to academics in children after a concussion. The report says:

“After a brain injury from a blow to the head, youngsters can have symptoms such as headaches, blackouts, blurred vision, confusion, dizziness, stomachaches, sensitivity to light and noise, and mood changes.

Here is some important advice that I heartily endorse from the report: Studies have shown that the injured brain might need to take a break from texting, video games, TV and school work. Your child’s pediatrician will be able to determine how much rest is best for your child. “

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletics Association (PIAA) instituted new rules on returning to school after a concussion last year. They have a learning website that can be registered at for free at and can be completed in as little as 20 minutes for adults working with school-aged children who get concussed in sports.  They recommend seeing a concussion specialist before returning to contact sports. 

Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, the Rothman Institute (orthopedics) and Wills Eye Hospital  have established a formal concussion institute at the Philadelphia Naval Yard.

In addition, the Nemours Foundation (DuPont Hospital for Children and Nemours Pediatrics at Jefferson), offers a concussion clinic.  Experts from pediatric rehabilitation medicine, neurology, sports medicine and more will help guide your child’s safe return to normal activities. 

Also, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has a pediatric concussion management program (and a series of videos and infographics answering various questions about concussions available online). Many other medical organizations are doing the same. Such practices help children with concussions return to both sports and to life, especially to school.

Disclosure: I work for the Nemours Foundation and am an officer of Thomas Jefferson University.

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