All concussions should be taken seriously
(Salt Lake City, UT) – During the 2016-2019 school years, 1,521 Utah students suffered a concussion while at school. As a new school year begins, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) wants to remind the public what the signs of a concussion are and the available resources to help those who sustain a concussion.
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury – or TBI – caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. A person injured from a concussion may experience symptoms ranging from mild to severe which may include headaches, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, double or blurry vision, feeling “sluggish” and “foggy,” or suffer from poor memory recall and concentration. Symptoms can linger for weeks or even months.
“All concussions need to be taken seriously,” said Tracy Barney, TBI coordinator with the UDOH. “A concussion can have a dramatic impact on a student’s ability to attend and succeed in school and may have lasting effects on their health and wellbeing.”
Most concussions reported at school occurred during September, October, and November. More than half (59%) occurred among male students and more than one-third (37%) during lunch recess or PE class. The most common activities a student was participating in when they sustained a concussion were running (17%), playing football (10%), or walking (10%).
School administrators voluntarily report injuries, including concussions, which occur to students to the UDOH Student Injury Reporting System. This system has been in place since 1983 and is a partnership with the UDOH, Utah State Board of Education, and local school districts and schools. Because the system is voluntary, the number of reported injuries is likely underreported.
“Most students who sustain a concussion return to pre-injury functioning within three to four weeks of their injury. However, in about 10–20% of cases, symptoms linger beyond this time,” said Barney. “When this occurs, school administrators should extend any academic or physical adjustments the student needs for a longer period of time. These accommodations are absolutely critical for students to have a successive return to play and learn.”
During the 2018-2019 school year, 66% of Utah schools required coaches or trainers to receive materials on concussions. Additionally, 72%% of Utah schools required staff to receive training on signs of a concussion, responding to concussions, and the legal requirements found in House Bill 204 Protection of Athletes with Head Injuries. This law requires all amateur sports organizations, including public and private schools, sports leagues, and sports camps, to adopt and enforce a concussion policy. The policy must be signed by and given to parents/guardians before their child may participate in the sporting event. If a concussion is suspected, the child must be immediately removed from play and can only return when they have written clearance from a qualified health care provider.
“Training is key. Teachers and coaches alike should know the signs of a concussion and what to do when a student has sustained one,” said Barney.
Students who sustain a concussion may:
- Appear dazed or stunned
- Seem confused
- Lose memory of just before or after the injury
- Have balance, coordination, or gait problems
- Show a change in personality
- Respond slowly to questions
- Lose consciousness for any length of time; however, losing consciousness is not a requirement for a concussion diagnosis
If you or a loved one has experienced a concussion and want to determine if you qualify for services such as a neuropsychological evaluation, please contact the UDOH Health Resource Line at 1-888-222-2542 or health.utah.gov/tbi.
For more information on traumatic brain injury, visit health.utah.gov/tbi.
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