Central Bucks East Athletic Director John Reading, West Athletic Director Henry Hunt, and South Athletic Director Charles Cathers presented a review to the school board of the information they gathered in attending the third annual School Concussion Conference.
At the conference, the team learned more about the challenges associated with identifying and diagnosing traumatic brain injuries (TBI). In addition, they reported on the pre-existing conditions that can impede diagnosis and increase the chances for prolonged recovery.
A recent study, the results of which were presented at the conference, showed that of 2,716 secondary students aged 13-18 who were affected by TBI, 86 percent recover within four weeks’ time.
Methods of treating concussion have changed. While recommendations were to restrict all forms of activity until a student was completely asymptomatic, medical research now supports a gradual return to both mental and physical activity.
Rest for 24-48 hours following the diagnosis is followed by a gradual re-introduction to school activities and early aerobic exercise with hard stopping points. Central Bucks utilizes a concussion management team approach at the high school level, including school nurses, guidance counselors, house principals, and athletic trainers; all of whom work together with families and their personal physicians to monitor students and place them on the best possible path to recovery.
CB East certified school nurse Karen Bartnett, who was lauded for being an early advocate for concussion research in the district, presented at the conference. Bartnett, who has been working with students on managing concussion for more than 10 years, talked about the collaborative approach that school personnel take in helping students manage the effects of concussion on their personal and school lives. She noted that more than 50 percent of concussions are not related to participation in PIAA sports.
While the majority of students recover within three to four weeks time, 10-20 percent of students have prolonged symptoms. Bartnett referenced that numerous supports are put in place to help students during this recovery period, incuding educational accommodations, access to concussion support groups, and regular monitoring by the school’s concussion management team.
“We are working very hard to educate parents and students on recovery and prevention,” Bartnett noted.