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'Return-to-Learn' Protocol for Concussed Student-Athletes Proposed in Va., Neb.

Two bills recently introduced in Virginia and Nebraska would establish a "return to learn" protocol for student-athletes who have sustained concussions.

The Virginia bill, introduced on Jan. 9, would require school personnel to "accommodate the gradual return to full participation in academic activities by a student-athlete who has suffered a concussion or other head injury as appropriate," based on the recommendation from a concussion-trained health care provider.

Likewise, the Nebraska bill, introduced on Jan. 10, calls for a return-to-learn protocol which recognizes "that students who have sustained a concussion and returned to school may need informal or formal accommodations, modifications of curriculum, and monitoring by medical or academic staff until the student is fully recovered."

The latest consensus statement on concussion in sports, released in March 2013, recommends that student-athletes take a gradual approach to returning to school and social activities after sustaining a concussion to "avoid provocation of symptoms."

A clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics released in Oct. 2013 echoed those recommendations, saying that returning to a normal classroom routine immediately after sustaining a concussion could delay a student-athlete's recovery. Additionally, a January 2013 position statement from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine also emphasized student-athletes' need for cognitive rest following a concussion.

A study published online earlier this month in the journal Pediatrics found that concussed student-athletes may have a shorter recovery time if they rest and abstain from regular cognitive activity following their injuries.

As I've previously suggested, now that nearly every U.S. state has a youth-concussion law (and Mississippi, the last remaining holdout, may soon join the club), the next step with such legislation will be refinement based on the latest research. Given the overall consensus regarding the need for cognitive rest following a concussion, it wouldn't be a surprise to see other states follow suit with Virginia and Nebraska in the coming months and/or years.  

Both states' bills were referred to their respective House committees on education, where they currently await action.

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