Concussion Return to Learn Protocol

By Mackenzie Simmons, ATC

Over the past decade, concussion awareness and management have been on the rise after many heartbreaking stories about traumatic brain injuries have been brought to the surface.  Athlete Trainers are usually the frontline managers for concussions, and they know the importance of the gradual return-to-play for athletes.  If an athlete is to get another concussion while recovering from the previous one, it could ultimately be detrimental to their health and cause life-long injuries.  Research over the past few years has brought up another essential point about concussion management: return to learn protocol.

The Rocky Mountain Institute in Denver, Colorado has developed the REAP program (Remove/Reduce, Educate, Adjust/Accommodate, Pace), which not only emphasizes safely returning an athlete to sport but to school.  Thanks to Dr. Karen McAvoy, these guidelines have been adopted in many schools in the state of Colorado to promote concussion awareness and safety.  The REAP program breaks down the different roles for the concussion management team.  While an Athletic Trainer may be one of the primary caretakers during recovery, there are other essential members who need to understand their role.  The family, school academic team, team physician and the medical team all play pivotal roles when safely returning an athlete to participation and education.  The REAP program includes a very detailed protocol for the different responsibilities each role possesses during the recovery time.

A few states have introduced a state bill to implement a return to learn protocol within all school districts, but there needs to be more action by Athletic Trainers to fight for this important change.  All healthcare professionals know the negative affects that can occur when a concussion is not treated properly.  We, as Athletic Trainers, need to work on developing a return to learn protocol that can be adopted by the educational side of a student athlete’s career.  If your institution does not have a set protocol for returning a concussed athlete to school properly, what are you waiting for? For more information on the REAP program:


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