In the Journals

Concussion linked to greater academic dysfunction than extremity injury in students

Recent findings published in the American Journal of Public Health showed that students experienced greater academic dysfunction 1 week after concussion compared with students who experienced extremity injuries. However, 1 month after injury, there was no difference between the groups.

“Most students who play sports are not going to become professional athletes,” Erin B. Wasserman, PhD, at the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in a press release. “But, they will need to continue with school and prepare for a career.”

According to the researchers, concussions account for 13% of all injuries to United States high school athletes and concussion symptoms are associated with poor academic performance. In addition, moderate traumatic brain injuries have shown to decrease academic performance many years after the injury; however, these effects are not as well-studied for mild traumatic brain injuries like concussions. Because of the lack of information, students often return to school within a week, while their brains are still recovering.

In a prospective cohort study conducted between 2013 and 2015, the researchers assessed high school and college students who visited three EDs in Rochester, New York. The researchers used telephone surveys to evaluate self-reported academic dysfunction at 1 week and 1 month after injury. Overall, they assessed 70 students with concussions and 108 students with extremity injuries.

One week after injury, the researchers found that academic dysfunction scores were 16 points higher (95% CI, 6.39-26), on a 174-point scale, in the concussion group vs. the extremity injury group. One month after injury, there was no difference between the two groups, except for female students and those with a history of two or more concussions who showed greater academic dysfunction.

These findings support the current recommendations that students should receive help at school in the first 1 to 3 weeks after concussion, the researchers wrote.

“Just as [students] need guidance for when they can play again, they need guidance and protection for when it is appropriate to return to class and what to expect,” Wasserman said in the release. – by Will Offit

Disclosure: Wasserman reports no relevant financial disclosures.