Halton Student Concussion Education Project engaging students

The average age of a child sustaining a head injury is between 12-16 years old.

Teacher in front of a class room of students

Grade 9 students were recently introduced to the Halton District School Board’s new concussion education program and say a classroom setting is an effective way to understand the dangers of serious head injuries.

Students learned about what concussions are, how people sustain them and the signs and symptoms of a concussion through the Halton Student Concussion Education Project. On the first day, teacher Michael O’Brien led his Grade 9 physical education class through a series of videos followed by class discussion about how it relates to their everyday lives.

Students learned that general confusion and headaches are key symptoms of concussions, and that some professional athletes after retiring from their chosen sport, for example, experience extreme moodiness as they age. O’Brien told his class that if you have been knocked out, your brain goes into a kind of shut down mode, like a computer does when restarted, and needs time to recalibrate.

“It’s as if your brain is taking a rest,” he said, stressing the brain is a soft piece of tissue like Jello. “That is your brain’s response to being injured.”
He said the nature of head injuries can be tricky and people need to pay attention to symptoms.

“In order for us to change the culture and image of concussions, we need to empower students.” Rebecca Richardson.

Student Mitchell Foster said the first day of the Halton Student Concussion Education Project was “very informative” and engaging as opposed to having students read handouts explaining concussions on their own time.

Concussion expert Dr. Paul Echlin partnered with curriculum staff to create a self-directed educational program, complete with teaching and training modules, designed to show staff and students the dangers of concussions and how to identify, prevent and treat them. Grade 9 students will study this as part of their secondary Health and Physical Education high school curriculum. To ensure the concussion education program was viable, the Board piloted it with various students this year including those in Grade 6.

O’Brien has many goals he hopes to accomplish through the concussion education program. Particularly, the fact treatment and rest is needed when a concussion is sustained and the potential for long term effects and re-occurring concussion symptoms, which “need to be taken seriously,” he said.

Drawing of Concussion implications

The symptoms of concussions as written by Emily Carr Public School students

“I hope they will gain basic knowledge of signs, symptoms and potential damage of concussions, as well to look at how to diagnosis them properly and to take care of the injury,” he said.

An important part of the program, he said, is it allows for conversations with students about concussions.

“The program gives a framework to open up discussions about real-life experiences students have had,” O’Brien said, adding the topic of concussions will come up regularly throughout the semester and not just during the allotted instructional unit. “It gives us some feedback on how they have been treated and the community perception of how to diagnose and handle a concussion.”

Rebecca Richardson, the Board’s Instructional Program Leader: Health and Physical Education K-12, is excited the program has been formally launched. It will be rolled out in high schools throughout this year.

“Students are the voice of the future” she said. “In order for us to change the culture and image of concussions, we need to empower students. The education program allows students to gain knowledge in addition to the skills to take action and advocate for their own safety and the safety of others at school but also in a variety of activities outside of school.”

Teaching Grade 9 students the dangers of concussions is especially important because the average age of a child sustaining a head injury is between 12-16 years old, she explained.

The Halton District School Board began the process of investigating concussion education two years ago. As the concussion education program rolls out with Grade 9 students this year, the Board is looking at crafting a Grade 3 learning module with the same focus and integrated curriculum connection.

“The feedback and research has shown this program engages students and provides them with the ability to take preventive measures when involved in an activity,” Richardson said.


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