American children (to age 18) sustain as many as 3.8 million concussions every year, according to the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center (HIPRC). These head injuries can carry a multitude of challenging symptoms for kids as they recover.
"There's a large number of students who have concussions from sports or from falling due to nonsports related issues," said Dr. Monica Vavilala, HIPRC director and a professor of anesthesiology, pain medicine, and pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. "They go back to school, they have trouble concentrating. The light bothers them. They feel sleepy, fatigued – and how severe these symptoms are, or how they interfere with their school performance, really varies."
New research from Israel (monitoring 200 children ages 8-15) highlights the issue: 25% of those who suffered a concussion developed persistent post-concussion syndrome during the study. Patients diagnosed with the syndrome can experience symptoms for weeks or months.
HIPRC's Return to Learn Washington program supplies awareness and education on youth concussions through a program that's grown to 14 high schools across the state. The program provides a basis to coordinate care between physicians, parents, and school facilitators (including teachers, administrative staff, athletic directors/trainers, and school health services) to help students return to their full learning capabilities safely, post-concussion.
"We developed a program that tailors accomodations to symptoms," Vavilala said. "Schools welcome this program because it helps them do their job better and reduces the work burden."