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School and Concussions

Recovering from a concussion can mean sitting out sports or gym class for a while. But a concussion also can affect a student's school performance because it's a type of brain injury.

How Can a Concussion Affect Me at School?

All injured body parts take time to heal, even brains. After a concussion, you need physical and mental rest. Doing schoolwork and being in a classroom can make the symptoms  of a concussion worse. This means the brain takes longer to heal, so you might not do as well on tests or be able to return to sports as fast as you would if you'd taken time off to rest.

These are all reasons why you'll want to follow your doctor's instructions about what to do — and what not to do — while you recover. If your doctor tells you to stay home and rest, do it.

Having a concussion can affect you at school in a number of ways:

  • You might be more tired than usual.
  • You may feel irritable, sad, or emotional.
  • You might have trouble concentrating, thinking, or making decisions.
  • You could have dizzy spells or headaches.
  • You might have difficulty with your coordination and balance.
  • You may have trouble learning new concepts or remembering what you've learned.

All of these concussion symptoms can make it hard to do the things you need to do at school, like reading, writing, focusing, and even walking around campus.

Many teens who get concussions usually recover within 1-2 weeks, but others may take longer. But what if you have an important test or essay during that time?

What Should I Tell My Teachers?

Now that there's more awareness about concussions, most teachers know about the healing process and what students need to do.

If you have a concussion and you've been cleared by a doctor to go to school, tell your teachers about your injury. That way they'll understand any difficulties you might have in the classroom as you get back to your normal self. Ask your teachers to work with you to lighten your workload or reschedule tests.

Tell your teachers about any concussion symptoms you get, like headaches or dizzy spells, so they know what to be on the lookout for. You also should let the school nurse and administrators know about your concussion in case your symptoms get worse or you need to go home.

If you hit your head at school, tell a teacher or the school nurse about it even if you have no signs of a concussion. Sometimes, signs of a concussion may not appear until a few hours or even a day or two after the injury.

Tips for Dealing With a Concussion at School

The main thing you want to do is avoid injuring your head again. Another head injury when you already have a concussion can lead to a condition called second-impact syndrome. Although very rare, second impact syndrome can cause lasting brain damage and even death. So you'll want to avoid sports or rough play on the school grounds or in gym class.

To help you focus better and keep any problems under control while you're at school, try these tips:

  • Sit where you can focus. Choose a desk near the front of the classroom or in a spot where you're less likely to be distracted.
  • Write down everything you need to remember. Since your memory may not be back to normal, avoid stress by writing down homework assignments or things you need to do.
  • Ask if you can record the lesson. If you have trouble listening and writing notes at the same time, find out if you can record what the teacher says with your phone or a voice recorder.
  • If you start noticing symptoms, like a headache or sensitivity to light, take a break before they have a chance to get worse. Go to the school nurse and find a quiet place to lie down and give your brain a rest.
  • Ease back into things. Start off by doing one thing at a time and limiting your workload. Then gradually start doing more and being more active as you get better.

Reviewed by: Nicole M. Marcantuono, MD
Date Reviewed: May 1, 2017

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