Improving Concussion Management for New York State Students
Special Projects Fund
April 1, 2019
Each year in New York State, an average of 48,357 children under the age of 19 visit the emergency room for a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Sports and recreational activities are the leading cause of TBI-related emergency room visits among children and teens. A concussion is the most common TBI, and its symptoms can negatively affect a child’s performance in school. Studies of adults who sustained a childhood brain injury suggest that children with TBI may face future difficulties, including lower education attainment or incarceration. In 2011, New York State passed the Concussion Management and Awareness Act, which requires coaches, teachers, and school nurses to attend concussion trainings twice a year. Unfortunately, these trainings have not been updated with recent advancements in research on concussions. In 2019, NYHealth awarded the Brain Injury Association of New York State (BIANYS) a grant to address gaps in concussion management in schools across New York State.
Under this grant, BIANYS addressed gaps in concussion management by training teachers statewide on the evidence-based Return-to-Learn protocol. These trainings enhanced teachers’ abilities to identify students who have sustained a concussion and to provide the needed academic accommodations and services to ensure full recovery. BIANYS convened an advisory committee with representatives from education, medicine, athletics, rehabilitation, and government to review and update the Return-to-Learn protocol with the most up-to-date concussion management practices. From these convenings, BIANYS designed and implemented a pilot training program for preventing and managing concussions for New Yorkers of all ages, produced companion training materials, and compiled resources on concussion recovery for teachers (see a training guide for educators). The free program was implemented through in-person trainings and webinars for teachers in nine regions of New York State. Trainings raised awareness about the needs of students with concussions, reviewed the protocols, provided guidance on how to implement the protocols, and got feedback from teachers on current concussion management practices in their schools. BIANYS also engaged in policy and advocacy efforts on this issue, conducting national research on protocols, collecting input from school districts to identify gaps in concussion management, and building coalitions to inform policy changes.