CHSD Concussion / T.B.I. "Return to Learn" Protocol

  • Each year hundreds of thousands of K-12 students sustain a concussion as a result of a fall, motor-vehicle crash, collision on the playground or sports field, or other activity. Most will recover quickly and fully. However, parents / caregivers and school professionals will often be challenged with helping return a student to school who may still be experiencing concussion symptoms— symptoms that can result in learning problems and poor academic performance.

    While some research shows that the young brain can be resilient, it may also be more susceptible to the chemical changes that occur in the brain after a concussion. These changes can lead to a set of symptoms affecting the student’s cognitive, physical, emotional, and sleep functions. Concussions affect people differently. Most students will have symptoms that last for a few days or a week. A more serious concussion can last for weeks, months or even longer.

    Knowledge of a concussion’s potential effects on a developing child / student and appropriate management of the return-to-school process, is critical for helping students recover from a concussion. An injured child may not display obvious / visible symptoms or attempt to hide the severity of symptoms (to return to school in order to not get behind in classwork / tests, or return to sports practice and games). A child’s symptoms may also be mistaken for drug use, mental health issues, etc.

    Resources provided through BrainSteps, CDC, "Heads-Up" and PaTTAN can help facilitate a student’s return to school and recovery after a concussion. It emphasizes the importance of a collaborative approach by a team that includes not only school professionals, but also the student’s family and the health care professional(s) managing the medical aspects of the student’s recovery.

    The Cambria Heights School District has formed and utilized a Concussion Management Team (CMT) at each building level to help injured and diagnosed students, and the professionals supporting and educating them a gradual plan to systematically re-introduce demands of a school environment and classroom. This plan is designed to allow the student’s brain the time and “rest” to recover, and not delay this recovery or worsen symptoms by placing full cognitive and physical expectations on a recovering student.  Following a successful recovery (documented absence of symptoms experienced in school with increasing expectations) and release from a qualified medical professional, the student may then begin a “Return to Play” protocol if they are involved in a district sport. This process involves gradual increase of physical activity and evaluation to ensure symptoms do not return.

    Trained district members of the Concussion Management Teams include: Student, Parent / Caregiver, School Nurses, School Counselors, Regular and/or Special Education Teachers, School Psychologist, Director of Special Education and Student Services, Athletic Director, Trainer, or any other appropriate professional. In more complex situations in which student has suffered multiple head injuries, and/or are experiencing more difficult / extended recoveries, the Team seeks the help  of our  BrainSteps Consultant. This highly trained and experienced professional from IU08 assists the Team in coordinating all family and professionals involved, and developing a more specific plan to assist the child in their recovery. The Cambria Heights Team formed more than 5 years ago and has helped support dozens of district students.

    The following resources are helpful to students, family members, and professionals understand the unpredictable nature of concussions and the equally unpredictable recoveries each child experiences:


    Returning to School Following a Concussion (CDC) 

    Pa BrainSTEPS (Strategies Teaching Educators, Parents & Students)


    Traumatic Brain Injury (PaTTAN)