A new study published January 2023 in Concussion, found that over a quarter of schools did not provide any Return-to-Learn (RTL) accommodations for students with concussion throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Washington State, ongoing efforts for the state-wide Return-to-Learn (RTL) Implementation Bundle for Schools (RISE) After Youth Concussion trial have in progress since 2019. The RISE trial is championed by local school staff representatives (RTL champions) and assesses the effects of an RTL implementation bundle on schools RTL protocols as well as student academic outcomes after concussion.
The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted ongoing RTL efforts and forced schools to adjust curriculum and primarily pivot to virtual learning platforms. This study in turn found that over a quarter of schools did not provide accommodations for students with a concussion. Also, over 1/3 of schools in Washington receive no guidance on how to provide RTL accommodations during the pandemic.
“It is clear that public high schools are struggling to provide RTL accommodations, regardless of student demographics, schools characteristics or RTL policies,” said lead researcher Dr. Shyam Deshpande.
This is one of the first studies to define unique difficulties and barriers faced by public high school students with a concussion during COVID-19.
Researchers on this study suggest, there’s opportunities for policy makers, educators and healthcare professionals to provide schools with evidence-based RTL guidance as well as to allocate resources to vulnerable schools. Funding for this study was made possible by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant (CDC 1R49CE003087–01 PI Vavilala).
The UW HIPRC Return-to-Learn (RTL) Program provides support to high schools who want to implement RTL, for more information visit the RTL homepage.
Authors on this study represent the Department of Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, and the Harborview injury Prevention & Research Center at the University of Washington School of Medicine; Department of Epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health.