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Study: After concussions, kids face persistent difficulties with school

Kevin Guskiewicz, professor and former chair of the Department of Exercise and Sports Medicine at the College of Arts and Sciences, is framed by a football helmet at the University of North Carolina College of Arts and Sciences in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, May 13, 2015.
Kevin Guskiewicz, professor and former chair of the Department of Exercise and Sports Medicine at the College of Arts and Sciences, is framed by a football helmet at the University of North Carolina College of Arts and Sciences in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, May 13, 2015. AP Photo/Gerry Broome

New research finds that after sustaining a mild traumatic brain injury, nearly 9 in 10 teens who have ongoing concussion symptoms also have academic problems related to headaches, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. And more than three-quarters of those who have yet to recover fully after four weeks report a decline in such academic skills as note-taking, studying and completing homework assignments.

The new study, published online last week by the journal Pediatrics, makes clear that while many teens will have few concussion symptoms beyond two to three weeks, the consequences of some brain injuries can extend well beyond the playing field and can persistently degrade an adolescent’s academic performance in and outside the classroom.

Among 349 students ages 5 to 18 who had suffered a concussion, 240 continued to experience physical and cognitive symptoms of brain injury, including headaches, dizziness, light sensitivity and problems of mood and concentration when they were assessed by researchers within four weeks of their injury.

In that group, those with the highest academic demands — generally students in middle and high school — were most likely to report persistent symptoms of concussion along with difficulties concentrating and keeping up with schoolwork. Math was most frequently cited as the greatest academic challenge.

When parents reported mood changes in their concussed child, the likelihood of academic difficulties was higher, the study found.

As schools are under increased pressure to show continuous student improvement and to accommodate those with established learning challenges, the plight of the concussed student has frequently been overlooked, said the authors. But students coping with ongoing concussion symptoms need “targeted supports,” they wrote.

Health care professionals should draw up a post-concussion plan, specifying academic accommodations that should be made in light of a student’s individual symptoms.

Even among children considered to be recovering well, academic difficulties were common. In this group, 38 percent reported that headaches, concentration problems and fatigue had interfered with their learning, and 44 percent said their symptoms had taken a toll on academic skills such as note-taking and homework completion.

For most with mild brain injuries, the process of recovery will take a week to three weeks. During that time, physicians have suggested a patient’s school time might be limited, homework might be curtailed and frequent breaks might be tolerated. Administrators might allow a concussed student to move between classes ahead of the noise and confusion after the bell, to waive or reschedule tests, and to let a student eat lunch in a quiet place.

An earlier article in Pediatrics offered checklists that parents, physicians and schools can use to identify symptoms triggered by school-related activities and to track symptoms as they resolve.

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Anchor 2: Central Idea

Which answer choice includes two central ideas of the article?


Teens may continue to suffer academic consequences for weeks after a brain injury; schools, doctors and families must support students with brain injuries.


Students with brain injuries tend to struggle most with math schoolwork; these students should not attend school full-time until they are healed.


Older students tend to struggle more academically after brain injuries; doctors are primarily responsible for supporting students after brain injuries.


Students with brain injuries may suffer from mood swings as well as academic difficulties; parents must be the primary advocates for their brain-injured children.

Anchor 2: Central Idea

What would be the BEST title for the last five paragraphs of the article?


"Giving Concussed Students A Quiet Space"


"Finding Ways To Complete Homework"


"What Do Concussed Students Need From Adults?"


"Parents Are Key To Helping Students Recover"

Anchor 5: Text Structure

Review the closing paragraph of the article. By including this paragraph in the article, the author suggests each of the following EXCEPT:


Recovering from a brain injury is an ongoing process for students.


Parents should be more careful so their children do not sustain brain injuries.


Parents, physicians and schools all need to be involved in a child's recovery from brain injury.


There are many possible symptoms for brain injury and tracking each of them is important.

Anchor 5: Text Structure

Fill in the blank in the sentence below.

Overall, the article is structured around . . . . . . . .


descriptions of the various causes of brain injuries for students.


descriptions of the challenges facing students with brain injuries.


a comparison between the different types of brain injury a student can face.


a comparison between the different ways schools can support students with brain injuries.


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