It’s that time of year again – the air’s getting crisper, pumpkin spice is everywhere, and the calls for help with prolonged post-concussion symptoms are picking back up.
As a mom and as a sports neuropsychologist, it just makes me nuts!
While I certainly don’t want to minimize the importance of the brain or taking brain injuries seriously, I see more harm to students come from mismanagement of the initial injury than the actual injury itself, and I just hate to hear about it when it happens.
It’s commonly accepted that most older students – high school, college age – recover fully within 2-3 weeks, with 90% achieving full recovery in a month. While there are identifiable risk factors associated with prolonged recovery, in my practice I see mis-management as the most common reason for protracted recoveries.
For example, rest does NOT mean isolating students in dimly lit rooms and removing social contact and the means for connecting socially. That’s more likely to lead to a worsening of symptoms in many cases, due to social isolation or kids simply ignoring such unnecessarily draconian directives altogether. Rather, rest simply means listening to one’s body, and making the necessary lifestyle – home and school – adjustments to minimize symptom exacerbation with ongoing activity.
Gradual return to school does NOT mean returning to just a few classes and working as hard as ever – it more often means adjusting workload, classroom activities, and how the school facilities are navigated, in a manner that allows for gradual re-entry, social connections and, again, managing symptom exacerbation. There is no one-size-fits-all checklist that is most effective; management of the return-to-learn should be individualized, based on each student’s unique symptom profiles and triggers – and while that’s not a complicated process, but one handout for all typically isn’t adequate, either.
…and how about the role of computerized testing? It can be a tool for assessing injury impact and recovery progress, but it’s also one of many tools that we can use, and should not be used in isolation or by persons without extensive training in neuropsychological assessment – that is, more training than one may get from a weekend workshop and a few videos. And, by the way, there’s no such thing as a “passing score” or “normal score” on ImPACT – test interpretation should be individualized, taking a variety of factors into account over/above the average score ranges for one’s age and gender.
As a developmental neuropsychologist who specializes in concussions and a nationally certified school psychologist, my expertise is in brain-behavior relationships, and in understanding the functional impact of sports concussions on behavior, learning, and physical activity. As a sports neuropsychologist specializing in concussion management for more than a decade, and having just returned from the Berlin Conference, I know more than a little bit about current research and best practice standards, too, but the most important part of what I do is listening to each client’s symptoms, concerns, and needs, helping to return athletes of all ages to their playing fields, classrooms, and workplaces as quickly and safely as possible, using good science and common sense.
See the Resources page on my website for additional resources. Weekday and weekend appointments available.