This lesson helps young people understand the basic concepts of concussions. Youth will discuss brain injuries and complete a KWL chart (already Know, Want to know, what I Learned) to list facts about concussions. A hands-on learning activity gives young people a chance to experience what living with a brain injury may be like. Finally, the youth will reflect on what they learned about brain injuries and how to prevent them.
Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information about concussions. These facts can be shared with young people during your discussions.
Young people who play sports or are active other ways, such as riding bikes or playing on the playground, are at risk for concussion. This is a blow to the head that affects how the brain works. It is a form of brain injury. You can’t see it but it causes changes in a person’s behavior, thinking or physical actions.
Your brain is a soft organ that is protected by spinal fluid and your skull. Normally the spinal fluid acts as a cushion between brain and skull. When your head or body is hit hard enough, however, your brain can get knocked against your skull and be concussed. Signs of a concussion can occur right away or hours or even days after the injury occurs. It’s possible to have a concussion even if you never lose consciousness. Signs and symptoms of a concussion can include:
- problems with memory
- upset stomach (nausea) or vomiting
- balance issues or dizziness
- double or blurry vision
- being sensitive to light or sounds
- feeling hazy, foggy or groggy
- problems concentrating
- not “feeling right”
Long-term problems are possible if a person has more than one concussion, or is re-injured before the brain fully heals. That’s why rest, seeking medical treatment, and following a doctor’s instructions are all important. Even better is to prevent concussions in the first place. The Centers for Disease Control recommends these prevention methods:
- Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle.
- Wear a helmet that is fitted and maintained properly when:
- riding a bike, motorcycle, snowmobile, scooter, or all-terrain vehicle
- playing a contact sport, such as football, ice hockey, lacrosse or boxing
- using in-line skates or riding a skateboard
- batting and running bases in baseball or softball
- riding a horse
- skiing, sledding or snowboarding.
- Ensure that during athletic games and practices, you:
- use the right protective equipment (should be fitted and maintained properly in order to provide the expected protection)
- follow the safety rules and the rules of the sport
- practice good sportsmanship
- do not return to play with a known or suspected concussion until you have been evaluated and given permission by an appropriate health care professional.
- Make living areas safer by:
- installing window guards to prevent people falling out of open windows
- keeping stairs clear of clutter
- securing rugs and using rubber mats in bathtubs
- not playing on fire escapes or on other unsafe platforms.
Introduce the lesson by discussing concussions, how they occur, and why young people need to be aware of this type of brain injury. Use the information about concussions in the Instructor Notes above.
Ask if anyone in the class has ever had a concussion. If so, ask if they are willing to share a little bit about what that was like.
Activity: Concussion KWL
Hand out the KWL Student Activity Sheet. Invite the youth to fill out the worksheet with a list of things that they know and things they still have questions about on this topic. On a KWL chart, full sentences are not necessary; the ideas are more are important. Suggest they use bullet points or numbers to make their lists easier to read.
Activity: Experiencing Altered Senses
In advance of the lesson set up the stations as described below.
Explain that you have some stations set up with activities that are simulations of some of the possible effects of a brain injury such as concussion. Divide the young people into groups and have them move through the stations before holding a discussion at the end:
- Sensory loss: Sometimes people who have a brain injury don’t feel things the same way anymore, either temporarily or even permanently. Simulate this by putting common items in a bucket filled with rice. Have young people put a thick rubber glove on their dominant hand and reach into the rice to feel the items. Can they identify what they are?
- Vision impairment: Smear the lenses of several pairs of goggles with petroleum jelly. Have the youth do a variety of regular classroom activities such as sharpen a pencil, copy a sentence off the board, write their names on a worksheet, walk to the bathroom and so on while wearing the goggles.
- Loss of taste: Have several types of snacks available. Have each young person choose one of the types of snacks to taste. The first taste should be with their noses plugged. Have them write down a few words to describe the taste (such as sweet, salty, spicy). Then have them taste the same snack with their nose unplugged and again write down a description.
- Sensory hypersensitivity: Give the youth a math worksheet that’s at their level. Have them complete the worksheet while wearing headphones blaring loud music.
After the youth have completed the stations, reconvene the group a debrief using the follow questions as guides:
- What was it like to do those different things? Describe the experience as well as your feelings as you trying to accomplish them.
- Were some of them more difficult than others? Why?
- Were some of them more frustrating or upsetting than others? Why?
- What surprised you?
- Did you know that having a concussion could cause these kinds of problems?
 Adapted from Sharon Thorson, Injury Prevention Specialist, and the Denver Osteopathic Foundation, and from the “Brain Injury Empathy Experience” of Mapleton Center for Rehabilitation.
To conclude the lesson, ask the young people what they now know about how to prevent concussions. (Discuss and make sure they touch on all of the information mentioned above.)
Ask the youth to complete the last section of the KWL chart on the student activity sheet, listing things they learned about concussions.
Continuing the Conversation
Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which also includes these tips, so that families can continue discussing brain health and brain injuries at home.
Related Health Powered Kids Blog(s)
Additional Instructor Resources
Information about Concussion in Sports from CDC.gov