02/28/2012 11:07 EST | Updated 04/29/2012 05:12 EDT

Student Athlete Concussions: Schools Should Monitor Athletes, Study Says


MONTREAL - Sports programs in secondary schools, colleges and universities should adopt strict protocols for monitoring student athletes who suffer concussions, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the Universite de Montreal found that adolescents are more vulnerable than adults and children to sports concussions.

The study, by neuropsychologist Dave Ellemberg, shows that these injuries mainly affect working memory, which allows continuous mental operations such as doing math or reading.

Ellemberg says the growing brain found in an adolescent is particularly vulnerable to concussions because it is developing rapidly.

He says adolescents are usually also too quick to resume their sports and return to class where they must use the affected mental faculties.

Problems can result because the concussed youth can't concentrate as a result of the injury.

The study was published Tuesday in the journal Brain Injury.

The researcher says there should be strict protocols for physical and cognitive rest in the case of a concussion and that an early return to class should be avoided so the injured student's academic performance is not threatened.

He said while athletes like hockey legend Sidney Crosby can take time off to heal, adolescents do not get the same type of support.

The study also says that there can be side-effects from a concussion for six months to a year after the injury and these can include difficulty concentrating.

The study involved 96 athletes, a third of whom were adults. Another third of the study group were adolescents aged 13 to 16 years and the remainder were children aged nine to 12 years.