Vision Tests May Help Gauge When Concussed Kids Can Safely Return To School

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Experts say a comprehensive vision assessment should become a standard part of return-to-learn protocols to help assess when children are ready to return to school after a brain injury – especially when the child experiences academic difficulty.

The recommendation comes as the conclusion from a study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham published in the journal Optometry and Vision Science Journal – Eye and Vision Changes from Head Trauma.

“Concussed children with vision symptoms, hearing disturbances and difficulty concentrating often have academic difficulty post-concussion,” said associate professor Dr. Mark Swanson. “As we continue to try to improve concussion protocols, specifically when it comes to children, it is important that we understand the effects of a concussion on a child’s ability to learn,” Swanson wrote in a university press release.

The researchers note that most children with a concussion recover within seven to 10 days of the injury, but some experience longer-lasting symptoms. These symptoms can also contribute to difficult in school if the child returns before they have healed.

For the study, the researchers evaluated 276 children between the ages of 5 and 18-years-old with lingering symptoms 10 or more days after a concussion. Of these children, 46% reported vision problems such as blurred vision, while academic problems were reported by 28% of the children.

“Moving forward, physicians treating concussed patients should consider the damage done to the brain,” Swanson said, pointing out that they should also consider “how long this will affect a child’s progression and learning.”

He added, “vision often gets overlooked as a condition that needs checking after concussion, and rehabilitation should be prescribed when appropriate.”

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