Return to Learn - What Happens After a Concussion?

Posted on September 23, 2019 at 3:31 PM by McFarland Sports Medicine

The “Return to Learn” protocol is for student-athletes who suffer a concussion and helps them return to their classes before getting back to their sport.

The protocol was adopted as a state law in Iowa in July 2019 to support students as they return to their academic activities after suffering a concussion. Sports Medicine Primary Care Physician Sarah Bancroft, DO talks about the protocol and its importance.

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What is Return To Learn?

The "Return to Learn" process helps a student-athlete return back to their academic classes after suffering a concussion. Return to Learn must be completed before student-athletes return to their full sports.

“This is after a concussion has been identified and an athlete is going to be restarting school (48 hours after the injury),” Dr. Bancroft says.

Why is Return to Learn Important?

Student-athletes need to be back to their full mental state before they can get back to their sport safely after a concussion. Dr. Bancroft says that the stresses a student experiences in school versus the things they do in sports are amplified.

“Making sure that you can read your plays correctly, making sure you can interact with other players on your team, making sure you reaction time is appropriate,” Dr. Bancroft says. “All of those things need to be there ahead of time before you return to your sport.”

What to Know About Concussions

More information about concussions.

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How Does Return to Learn Work?

After it's identified that a student-athlete has suffered a concussion, they will start the protocol. Dr. Bancroft says a student’s school should have a point person for the process. This person can be an athletic trainer, guidance counselor or school nurse.

The school should send an email to the student’s teachers so they know that they suffered a head injury.

Once the student can return to school, they should communicate with their teachers when things in class are difficult for them.

Difficulties and accommodations for students may include a needing pre-printed notes, difficulty with computers, difficulty with room lighting or anything class-specific.

After a week of "Return to Learn," if the student needs a more advanced educational plan, the school can help them with that during recovering.

When is Return to Learn Complete?

If an athlete is in class full time and doesn’t need any accommodations, outside of any normal accommodations, they have completed "Return to Learn." They also need to be at their grade level that they would normally expect.

“If they are typically getting As and Bs in class, we would expect them to be back at that level of As or Bs,” Dr. Bancroft says.

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