Study: Concussion and Head injury’s Impact on Grades and Emotions

Anyone is susceptible to  head injuries (from a fall, sports injury, trauma, etc.)  leading to a concussion. 

Concussions can cause a variety of physical and emotional symptoms that can last for several weeks (1). This can impact classwork, job performance, relationships, etc.

 What is a concussion? (1).

In short, concussion is a brain injury with the following features (1):

●It may be caused by a direct blow to the head, face, neck, or elsewhere on the body with an ‘impulsive’ force transmitted to the head; with or without loss of consciousness.

● Neurologic symptoms can start quickly and resolve spontaneously.

In some cases, symptoms and signs may evolve over minutes to hours.

● In many cases, symptoms may impact brain or nerve functioning but brain scans and other tests may be normal.

 What are some physical and emotional symptoms of a concussion?

  • Within minutes to hours of an injury: headache, dizziness, lack of awareness of surroundings, and nausea and vomiting (2).
  • Over hours and days, victims might have changes in mood, thinking or sleep (4).
  • They might also become more sensitive to light and noise, and sleep disturbances (4).

What are some observable signs that someone may have had a concussion following an injury?(2)

Signs observed in someone who might be experiencing a concussion after an injury might be (2):

Confusion (acting, appearing, or making confusing remarks or slow to respond or follow instructions

● In-attention or easily distracted or difficulty with follow through

● Emotional difficulties: (appearing distraught, crying for no apparent reason)

● Having difficulties with memory

● Loss of consciousness

● Becoming less coordinated (stumbling, inability to walk tandem/straight line)

 How can concussion impact academics?

A recent study by Wasserman and colleagues looked at the impact of concussions and grades/academics (3).

What was the study? (3)
204 Teenagers and college students (average age 16 years, ranging from 15 to 18 years of age) visiting one of three emergency departments within 24 hours after suffering a sports-related concussion or musculoskeletal extremity (bodily) injury.

 What did they study? (3)
Students interviewed 1 week and 1 month after the injury, participants completed a 29-item academic dysfunction questionnaire (higher score reflecting more dysfunction) (3).

176 completed the first interview and 153 the second interview (3).

 What were the results? (3)

  • Compared with students with extremity injuries, those with concussions took longer to return to school (mean days, 5.4 vs. 2.8) and scored 16 points higher on the dysfunction scale at 1 week post-injury (3).
  • 1 week after injury, high school and college students with concussions reported more academic dysfunction compared to those with extremity injuries (3).

 What do the results mean?

  • If you or someone you know has experienced a head injury, they may also have experienced a concussion. This can have an impact on emotional health, ability to perform at work, school, other aspects of life etc.
  • For some people this impact can last for a few weeks.
  • After a concussion, it may be important for you to be proactive about ongoing medical and mental health treatment.
1. McCrory P, et. al.  Consensus statement on concussion in sport: the 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport held in Zurich, November 2012.  Br J Sports Med. 2013 Apr;47(5):250-8.
2. Kelly JP, Rosenberg JH.  Diagnosis and management of concussion in sports. Neurology. 1997;48(3):575.
3. Wasserman EB et al. Academic dysfunction after a concussion among US high school and college students. Am J Public Health 2016 Jul; 106:1247.
4. Cantu RC.  Posttraumatic Retrograde and Anterograde Amnesia: Pathophysiology and Implications in Grading and Safe Return to Play.  J Athl Train. 2001;36(3):244.