Return To Classroom: Effects Of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury On Academic Performance

Open Access
Kaschak, Christian Nelson
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Semyon Slobounov, Thesis Supervisor
  • Jinger Gottschall, Honors Advisor
  • concussion
  • mTBI
  • brain
  • sport
  • student-athlete
  • return-to-school
  • academic-performance
Mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI), often called concussions, are a growing concern for children, adolescents, and all athletes participating in contact sports, as studies show that the damage caused by a brain injury can be more serious and have a longer lasting impact than first thought. Recent lawsuits involving professional athletes have resulted in multi-million dollar settlements and new guidelines for returning a concussed athlete to sport (Strachan 2015). However, little attention has been paid to the effect of concussions on a student-athlete’s return to academics. This preliminary study of Grade Point Averages (GPA) from a cohort of 26 Penn State Division I varsity student-athletes shows that mTBI has a significant impact (p=0.03) on GPA. Specifically, it was observed that despite a change in study habits and increase in study time, there was an average decrease of 0.25 (on a 4.0 scale) in GPA from the semester prior to mTBI compared to the semester of injury. The student-athletes’ GPAs tended to rebound the semester following mTBI, but the trend showed that the GPAs did not quite return to pre-concussive levels. All subjects were cleared to return to play 7-10 days post injury, but it can take more than twice that amount of time to return to school (Master 2012). Hence, return to play does not equate to return to academic rigor, and ignoring this fact with premature return to school could lead to compounding effects, longer lasting impacts, and increased deficits in not only the student-athletes current grades, but also their lives beyond sport.