You may have been hearing a lot about concussions in the news lately. Most of this is because, as the NFL season opened, the league was under a lot of scrutiny for not taking safety more seriously. The football players’ union was taken to task in the debate, and the league had to pay out a $765 million settlement to more than 4,500 former players who sued the league because of the head injuries they received as a result of the game.
Now, we all know football is a dangerous sport. Many parents won’t even let their kids on the field because of the injuries they might receive. I still vividly remember watching Jason Street take a tackle badly and, consequently, end up paralyzed for life on the pilot episode of “Friday Night Lights.” Though fictional, the episode depicted a very real situation; more likely than not, if you play a contact sport, you will at some point get hurt.
It’s not just the NFL that is paying attention to dangerous head injuries such as concussions. Schools are rethinking how they deal with students with concussions, as well, and not a moment too soon. As a high school teacher, I have at least one student every fall that suffers a concussion, many of them not from the boys’ football team, but from the girls’ Powder Puff game they play every homecoming.
Students that suffer serious concussions are out of school for a week, maybe more, and when they come back, they have difficulty adjusting. They may be sensitive to bright lights and sounds, have difficulty concentrating and get fatigued very easily. While most teachers are understanding of issues such as this, students who suffer concussions are not afforded the same accommodations as students who have a documented disability with an IEP or 504 plan.
It is for this reason that, on Sunday, the American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines for how to deal with students with concussions in the classroom. There are many states who have implemented rules about when student athletes can resume playing their sport after a concussion, but not many who have rules about when students can get back to class and how far they should push themselves when they do. Concussions are not just an athletic problem, either. Students — especially teenage ones — are more prone to engaging in higher-risk behaviors that could cause them injuries, making these guidelines especially important.
As of right now, the guidelines are pretty clear that the student should initially rest after the concussion; however, there are very few guidelines as far as a timeline goes for recovery after the initial phase. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most students should be fully recovered within three weeks and, during that time, schools can and should make simple accommodations for students who need them.
Some of the accommodations suggested include: scheduling rests in the nurse’s office, allowing extra time for students to navigate crowded hallways, allowing sunglasses to be worn during the day, and allowing students to alter their schedule as needed to take partial days off.
The new guidelines also have suggestions for parents. They should be advocates for their children when it comes to schools, ensuring that the schools are doing everything they can to make the transition back to learning as easy as it can be. Furthermore, parents need to curb their own anxieties when it comes to checking up on their children. Asking your kids if they have a headache every hour will only cause your child headaches, they say, so both parents and teachers need to allow students time to recover without being overbearing.
Photo Credit: makelessnoise