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Pediatricians urge caution in sending kids back to class after concussion

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Medical and school officials have become more cautious about sending kids back onto the athletic field after a concussion. But now doctors are pointing out that even a return to the classroom should be handled carefully.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a new set of guidelines Sunday called "Returning to Learning."

The Star Tribune spoke with the family of a Big Lake teenager who suffered four concussions while playing soccer and basketball. Hannah Sipe and her family tell the newspaper she was outwardly healthy when she started her freshman year at Big Lake. But the combination of lights, noise, crowded hallways, and the strain of schoolwork soon sent the former honors student to the hospital with headaches, dizziness, and exhaustion.

Even now, two years later, Hannah tells the paper certain tasks -- opening a combination lock, for instance -- are too much for her.

In releasing its guidelines at a conference in Orlando, the pediatricians group acknowledged that concussions are not all the same and each recovery should be handled on a case-by-case basis. But they say the return to academics can sometimes worsen concussion symptoms and should be monitored by parents, doctors, and school staff.

Two years ago, Minnesota passed a law regulating the handling of concussed athletes by youth sports teams. The Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance has a page with guidelines for coaches, referees, and parents.

In September a football player at Dassel-Cokato High School needed emergency surgery to relieve brain swelling after suffering a head injury during a game. The Delano Herald Journal reports Luke Nelson's recovery was complicated by an infection, but he's now home again. The Nelson family tells the newspaper Luke will not be able to return to contact sports.

Earlier this month, MPR and KARE-11 reported that participation in some youth football leagues has declined 20 percent or more over the last five years, with injury concerns apparently a factor in the dropoff.

Former Packer and Viking quarterback Brett Favre told a Washington sports radio station last week that he's noticed some memory loss recently and worries about the effects of twenty years of pro football.

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