Local doctors work with schools to improve concussion treatment

WASHINGTON – When a child suffers a concussion while playing sports, it automatically means some time away from the playing field.

Now, the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending a time-out from the classroom too.

The academy is urging school districts to work with doctors to determine when affected children need to stay home, or at the very least, adjust their time in class.

The goal is not just to give them the physical rest they need to heal, but the cognitive rest as well.

Neuropsychologist Gerard Gioia, director of the SCORE concussion program at Children’s National Medical Center, says the idea is already catching on in the Washington area.

“We have had our focus, quite honestly, more so on return-to-the-field than return-to-the-school. But the good news is that has begun to change,” he says.

The academy urges a team approach, one where the school actively consults with medical professionals treating a child or teen with a concussion to come up with an effective, individualized course of action.

Gioia describes it as “a very dynamic process that really requires pretty active communication between the medical team — whether it is a pediatrician or, in our case, a neuropsychologist or a neurologist – and the school counselor, the school nurse, the teacher, the school psychologist.”

In February 2012, Children’s conducted a workshop for 25 local schools to teach them about the affects concussions can have on learning, and how to set up a formula to better support kids in their recovery.

“We’ve been doing this for a number of years,” says Gioia, noting Arlington Public Schools are already working on this issue, as are the schools in Montgomery County. He also notes progress in Howard County, and says the Fairfax County Schools will be hosting their own workshop with Children’s next month.

“I think the message is getting out there that schools need to be better prepared to support kids in their return after a concussion,” he says, adding “they are really moving on this and I am really congratulating them on doing so.”

To learn more about concussion, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put together this tip sheet for parents.

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