Return to Play and Return to Learn Programs Hero

Return to Play and Return to Learn Programs

Return to Learn Plan

Our team at the Saint Peter’s Sports Medicine Institute, which includes a physician board certified in pediatrics and sports medicine, works to create an individualized plan for student athletes to return to school after suffering a concussion. Student athletes will complete the following steps at their own pace.

Complete physical and cognitive rest. Goal is for the patient to become bored.

  • Do not attend school or participate in physical exercise, reading, computer use, video games, texting/social media, or listening to music with earphones.
  • No social activities or sporting events.
  • Parents should take away the child’s cell phone and digital devices.
  • Okay to watch television or talk on a telephone in 15- to 20-minute increments for a total of 2 hours, if it does not make a headache worse.
  • Do not watch sports or televised shows with a lot of action.
  • Consider activities and play that do not worsen symptoms such as cooking, Legos, Play-Doh, and crafts. No puzzles.

Student athletes may advance to the next step once there is significant improvement in symptoms or after 3 days unless otherwise directed by a doctor.

Light Cognitive Activity

  • Reintroduce reading in 5- to 10-minute blocks and enlarge the font, if possible. If reading on a computer or tablet, enlarge the font to 18-point.
  • Parents should start reading school work to their child in 5- to 15-minute blocks. Parents should record the homework answers.
  • May resume texting and computer use; enlarge to 18-point font.
  • Screen time equals reading time. The number of minutes you are permitted to read should equal the number of minutes you are permitted to look at the screen.
  • Stop the activity if moderate symptoms develop.
  • Increase the amount of time an activity is done if symptoms do not worsen or resolve with a 30-minute break.

Moderate Cognitive Activity

  • Increase the amount of time spent reading and/or that parents read to 15- to 30-minute increments. Students may write homework answers.
  • May resume playing video games and increase time spent on the computer, watching TV, texting, and using social media.
  • Reminder that screen time = reading time.
  • Start gradually decreasing font size.
  • As it takes less time for the symptoms to resolve decrease the length of the break time.

Return to School

  • Half-day with accommodations. The child should be able to read for 15 minutes and listen to parents read for the length of a class period.
  • Advance to full-day with accommodations. If symptoms are minimal or gone. Symptoms should last for 30 minutes or less. May jump to this step if able to read for a total of three hours without symptoms in 30-minute intervals with rest breaks. The breaks should equal the time student athlete has between classes at school.

Talk with the student athlete’s primary care provider regarding  temporary accommodations.



These steps should be taken to help a student athlete return to school and play: 

A Checklist for Student Athletes Following a Concussion

    • No activity, complete physical and cognitive rest. Recovery is the  objective.
    • Do not advance to Step Two until symptom-free at school and physician has cleared to advance.
    • Light aerobic exercise, such as walking or stationary bike  at 70 percent intensity of the maximum predicted heart rate.  No resistance training. The objective is increased heart rate without producing symptoms.
    • Sport-specific exercise, such as skating and puck handling in hockey, and running and ball skills in soccer (no heading).  Football quarterbacks may resume sideline throwing. No resistance training and no head-impact activities. The objective is movement.
    • Resume non-contact training drills. Examples of these drills include walk-through pass blocking for football linemen and passing drills in ice hockey.  An important part of this step is the addition of resistance training.
A REPEAT MEDICAL EVALUATION IS REQUIRED BEFORE STEP FIVE. Clearance can be obtained for return to contact sports if student athlete is asymptomatic during school activities, is asymptomatic during exercise, and if applicable neurocognitive tests have returned to unimpaired or baseline levels.
    • Full contact practice AFTER medical clearance. Do not skip this important step. 
    • Game play 

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