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The Role of the School Psychologist in Comprehensive Concussion Management

By Eric Rossen

Dr. Gerard Gioia, Chief of Neuropsychology at Children’s National Medical Center, internationally recognized expert on youth concussions, and former school psychologist, identified 10 steps to effectively managing youth sport concussion (Gioia, 2008). In applying this model to the school system, school psychologists’ skill sets make them well equipped to support many of these steps in collaboration with other school and community personnel, including the following.

Preinjury knowledge and preparation. School psychologists often disseminate articles and offer workshops and trainings to parents, school faculty, and the community. School psychologists also provide valuable job–embedded learning (e.g., offering information in the context of a school meeting on a student who recently sustained a concussion).

Preseason baseline testing. School psychologists are among the most highly trained and skilled assessment experts, and they can assist and/or direct the assessment of a student athlete’s cognitive functioning. They understand test conditions that can affect test validity and can assist in producing an atmosphere that optimizes performance.

Postinjury clinical evaluation. School psychologists are typically the only individuals in the school building trained to assess and interpret neurocognitive functioning (e.g., attention, memory, processing speed, and reaction time), behavioral symptoms, and the effects of concussion on school learning, social– emotional functioning, and potential sports participation. Further, school psychologists are uniquely qualified to communicate the results with other involved school personnel (e.g., nurse, athletic trainer, coach).

Communication and coordination. School psychologists are highly skilled in collaborating, consulting, and communicating with stakeholders (e.g., parent, teachers, school nurse, athletic trainer, coach, physician) and making referrals as needed.

Comprehensive treatment (return to school supports). School psychologists are the school professionals best equipped to interpret postinjury testing and symptom status and to offer individualized recommendations based on assessment data and other factors such as age, developmental level, and relevant medical and psychological history.

Return to baseline functioning. With their understanding of normal development and functioning, combined with expertise in the psychometric principles of post–injury assessments, school psychologists can monitor students’ cognitive performance and symptom status to help determine the student’s return to their noninjured level of functioning.

Resources

Youth Concussion Programs and Baseline Testing

CDC Resources

NASP Resources

Reference

Gioia, G. A. (2008). Ten steps and commitments for an effective youth sports concussion program. Brain Injury Professional, 4(4), 14–15.