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Sports-Related Concussion: Academic Considerations for Student Athletes

Whether it's the football field, the basketball court, the hockey rink, or any other venue, sports-related concussions continue to be a concern for athletes, coaches, and parents.

Just as an athlete needs to rest his or her body after an injury, he or she also must rest the brain after a concussion. This may include modifying school activities or staying home from school completely.

A Prescription for Academic Accommodations

If a doctor or trainer diagnoses your child with a concussion, there are things teachers or school administrators can put in place to assist in his or her recovery.

A health care provider trained in diagnosing and treating concussions must prescribe these academic accommodations. This can be your primary care doctor or a concussion specialist like those at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine.

Each concussion is unique, so our experts at the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program will craft a custom treatment plan to fit each student's needs and goals. 

Examples of Academic Accommodations

The following changes can help students suffering from a concussion. Each student may not need every item listed.

Classes and activities

  • Excused absence from classes. Partial attendance options include missing elective classes to focus on core classes and coming in later or leaving earlier.
  • Special classroom seating to lessen distraction. Sitting at the front of the class or away from doors and windows is helpful for students with attention deficits and other concussion symptoms.
  • Lengthened assignment deadlines. Speed of processing and the ability to handle a full workload are often key constraints. Allow extra time for homework and class projects.
  • Temporary help of a tutor for organizing and prioritizing homework assignments. Students may have problems planning their studies, including writing papers and preparing for tests. A short meeting with a guidance counselor or an assigned tutor may help students plan out their work.
  • Rest periods during the school day. Just 30 minutes of rest in the nurse’s office or appointed area can help lessen many students' symptoms.
  • Accommodations for oversensitivity to light or noise. Many students find themselves unable to endure normal levels of light or noise while recovering from concussion. Fluorescent lighting can provoke headaches. Students should try to avoid noise from cafeterias, assembly halls, or band rooms.
  • Excused from team sports practices and gym activities. Avoiding physical exertion should be a priority, especially in the early days of recovery from a concussion.

Tests and exams

  • Postponing or staggering tests. Taking tests while still symptomatic often places recovering students at a distinct disadvantage. It also may result in heightening or prolonging concussion symptoms.
  • Excused from certain tests. Some students are so symptomatic that postponing or staggering tests may not help. In such cases, the most appropriate step may be to excuse students altogether from tests, specifically in classes where they were performing well before their concussion.
  • Extended test-taking time. Reduced processing speed is one of the most common post-concussive symptoms. Give students extra time to finish tests.
  • Tape-recorded tests. Visual scanning or the concentration demands of reading can worsen concussion symptoms. Recorded tests allow students to listen at their own pace, stop and start the tape for each question, and process test questions without the stress of reading.
  • Dictated test answers by tape recorder or scribe. Due to the visual and concentration demands of writing, some students may better convey their answers to essay questions via dictation.
  • Use of smaller, quieter exam rooms to reduce stimulation and distraction. During the recovery period, students display some of the characteristics seen in ADHD. They are more vulnerable to distraction by routine sights and sounds that occur in exam rooms for larger classes. Taking tests with smaller groups or alone may be helpful.

Make an Appointment at UPMC's Sports Medicine Concussion Program

Call 412-432-3681 to schedule an appointment with one of our concussion experts or learn more about concussion testing and treatment.

Contact Us

To schedule an appointment with one of our concussion experts, call 412-432-3681.

Sports Concussion Program
UPMC Center for Sports Medicine

3200 South Water St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15203

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