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If you’ve ever seen an American football game, I’m sure you’ve heard of concussions before. Or perhaps you’ve even experienced one as a child while playing sports. To clarify, concussion symptoms are not fun, and they include dizziness, difficulty concentrating, blurred vision, and increased sensitivity to light or sound. Mark Swanson, a professor at the UAB School of Optometry, emphasizes that concussions affect a child’s performance not only on the field but also in school.

Most people recover from concussions in seven to ten days. However, if symptoms persist longer, this can affect children in the classroom. Researchers from UAB and the Children’s of Alabama Concussion Clinic studied 276 children, aged 5 to 18, who suffer from concussions. They found that children who experience symptoms for ten or more days may have had a concussion that will lead to academic and learning difficulties, as well as vision abnormalities. According to the Centers for Disease Control, children are the most likely age group to enter the emergency room with a concussion.

 Concussions are especially prevalent in American football, and vision difficulties shouldn’t be overlooked.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Image Source: HENNY RAY ABRAMS

​​​​Swanson explains that, often times, physicians overlook vision problems during concussion treatment. Unfortunately, these are the vision difficulties that hinder learning in the classroom. Thus, Swanson recommends a comprehensive vision exam to ensure children are ready to return to school after suffering from a concussion. Traditionally, physicians focus on returning athletes to the field, which includes testing for balance, but equally important is ensuring athletes return to the classroom by testing for vision problems.

To adequately return athletes to normal activity, physicians need to accurately diagnose a concussion and all its symptoms. However, after all the exams and treatment, the challenge is determining when an athlete’s brain is fully healed and functional. Currently, researchers at the UAB School of Optometry are tackling this challenge by studying the brain and the relationship between eye movements, inner ear, and balance. Only after these advances are made can we effectively return concussed individuals to both the field and classroom.

Feature Image Source: Classroom by Allison Meler

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