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4 things to know about a new system for evaluating concussions

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A new way of treating and evaluating concussions is being used locally to help the health and the academics of high school students. The Return to Learn Concussion Protocol program considers the mental well-being with the physical recovery as well.

Here are four things to know about the Return to Learn program and how concussion care should be re-evaluated.

Return-To-Learn

Schools in Utah already follow a return-to-play model that has guidelines and a process for athletes to return to their sport following a concussion injury and period of recovery. The new Return-to-Learn program goes beyond that, as it provides new guidelines for all students who suffer concussions, to help them navigate through any academic struggles as they heal.

This new program was highlighted July 16, at the inaugural Intermountain Healthcare Concussion Conference at Brigham Young University’s LaVell Edwards Stadium, which brought together medical professionals, coaches, and athletes, to discuss the newest research and procedures showing success in treating concussions.

The Alpine School District is the first district in the state to adopt the Return-to-Learn model which is led by Mickelle Bos, Mountain View High School assistant principal. She said the best part about this program is that it focuses on anyone with a concussion, not just athletes. The hope is that this is the first step to other high schools adopting this protocol.

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How it works

Return to Learn uses a daily tracker of a student’s wellbeing to determine if teachers or administrators need to make any changes to their class load for them to keep up without stressing their brain injury.

The program requires students with concussions to fill out a daily report rating their symptoms on a scale of one to six. Anyone with scores of 4 or higher may need to stop what they are doing and take a break or change up their class schedule.

“We’ve learned so much about the impacts of concussions and this is another tool to make sure students can fully heal from their injuries and get the academic attention they need during the process,” said Bos. “The Return to Learn program is about returning to life.”

Importance of symptom watching

At the initial onset of a concussion, the person might get headaches, nausea, dizziness, and ringing in the ears as some of the symptoms. Yet, there are longer symptoms that can last days upon days. This can include concentration and memory problems, light sensitivity, depression and poor sleep among them.

“The symptoms of a concussion can be like having a short-term learning disability,” said Darren Campbell, MD, sports medicine physician at Intermountain Healthcare. “Teachers and administrators help students with learning disabilities every day, and they’re best equipped to help them get back to full academic capacity.”

Seek help for concussions

It is important to take concussions and suspected concussions seriously. Look for the warning signs and see a healthcare provider if you are injured or have a loved one that could have a concussion.

Taking care of your health afterward is important. More information on concussions and providers can be found at intermountainhealthcare.org.