Running a 100 metre sprint with a broken leg will further damage your leg. Similarly, an injured (or concussed) brain can suffer further damage if you return to learning before it has a chance to heal. The same can happen if you start to play video games, listen to music, read, or go to noisy parties too soon. Even an interesting conversation can do some damage. It all depends on what parts of the brain are injured and how badly they are damaged.
There is tremendous pressure to keep up with friends – both at school and socially. Missing classes and tests can cause the student to lose a year. Missing parties or concerts, or just not being able to hang out, can strain friendships and lead to feelings of missing out.
Because your injury is invisible, your teachers and your friends may not think that it is real. If you were wearing a cast or were on crutches they would understand better. But with a concussion you look like your normal self, and some of the time you even feel like your normal self as the brain mends itself.
There is no known way to speed the recovery from this sort of brain injury. There is no reliable test for a concussion and no way of telling what parts of the brain are damaged.
Take time to explain to them what a concussion is, what your invisible concussions symptoms are, and what causes the symptoms to occur. Ask them for their patience and understanding and help. Let them know that you’d rather be active, be doing your school work, be having fun with friends. They’ll likely understand and give you a break, which will help you heal.
Part of the problem is that sometimes you feel great and have no symptoms. This can lull you and those around you into thinking that everything’s okay. It’s only when you put too much stress on a part of your brain that is injured that you start to get a headache, dizzy, nauseous or anxious, or your vision gets blurry, or you get confused, or something else weird/unpleasant starts. Whenever symptoms start up, do push through them. Stop what you are doing, and keep track of both the activity and the symptoms. It’ll help you monitor your healing and give you a sense of what you can safely do and what you should avoid doing.
There is no way yet to look inside the skull and see what type of injury the brain has suffered. The only way judge what is safe to do is to try something in easy simple steps, and back off whenever any symptoms appear. Don’t rush things. Add new activities slowly and carefully, paying close attention to how you feel during and after the activity. This can be very frustrating, but in the long-run it is worth it.
You only have one brain. It needs to last you your whole life. Take care of it.
- Return-to-learn infographic
- Basic 5 step return-to-learn protocol
- Return-to-learn fact sheet for school staff
- Detailed return-to-learn guidance for school staff
- Return-to-learn advice for parents
- Return-to-learn guidance for doctors