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 Monday online by the journal Pediatrics, makes clear that while many teens will have few concussion symptoms past 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.
Even among children considered to be recovering well, academic difficulties were common. In this group, 38% reported that headaches, concentration problems and fatigue had interfered with their learning, and 44% said that that their symptoms had taken a toll on academic skills such as note-taking and homework completion. Math was most frequently cited as the greatest academic challenge. 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.