Schools across the country are only now beginning to institute concussion policies which pull young athletes from competition and practice when they have a brain injury, but that might not be enough for a positive and quick recovery. Concussed students are often returned to the classroom within a day or two of their injury, and doing so may be making matters worse.
A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics says that returning young concussion patients to intellectually stimulating and stressful environments like school not only make symptoms worse, but could perhaps slow their recovery.
The traditional treatment for a concussion asks patients to rest in a dim room with as little stimulation as possible. There is a reason for this; when a brain is injured, it heals best when placed under as little stress as possible. A school is practically the opposite of the suggested environment. The lights are intentionally bright, you are forced to use your brain, and no matter how much teachers try, classes always seem to grow noisy.
Returning to school doesn’t just make the patient feel worse. Teachers, doctors, and families have long noticed that concussed students struggle with learning, and find it difficult to read or remember material they learned just moments earlier. This means the student may not be getting much for returning to school prematurely to begin with.
According to Barbara Williams, the average recovery time for students is three weeks following the injury. Students are pressured to return to school as soon as possible, because absentee policies normally restrict students to roughly one week of missed class. Attempting to be granted more time to properly heal can be a difficult process, and missing more than a week can easily cause a student to fall far behind.
However, if being removed from educational environments for the entire duration of concussion recovery allows these children to heal more quickly, it seems obvious that schools should be willing to work with and accommodate students as much as possible. The entire point of schools is supposed to be growing the brain, after all.