Lifesaving Head Injury Advice
12 Concussion Myths Every Parent Needs to Know
Think you know how to detect and treat a concussion? Wrap your brain around these common misconceptions
The Concussion Crisis
Myth: Hitting your head is the only way to get a concussion.
Myth: If you don’t black out, you don’t have a concussion.
Myth: The harder the blow, the worse the concussion.
Myth: All concussions produce the same symptoms.
Myth: Men are at a higher risk for concussions.
Myth: Everyone recovers from concussions at the same rate.
Myth: If your kid has a concussion, you’ll know immediately.
Myth: A normal MRI or CT scan rules out a concussion.
Myth: Helmets and mouth guards prevent concussions.
Myth: A person with a concussion should try to stay awake.
Myth: It’s safe to resume normal activities right after a concussion.
Myth: Athletes will report concussion symptoms.
The Concussion Crisis
About five years ago during a rec-league soccer game, I jumped to head a lofted ball but missed. Instead, it awkwardly—but gently—bounced off the top of my head. I immediately felt dizzy, but laughed it off, and finished the rest of the game.
The problems started 10 days and a few more soccer games later. First it was unusual nausea during my commute. Then it was sensitivity to noise, migraines, repeated dizzy spells, stabbing pains in the back of my head, and the sensation that my brain was vibrating. Symptoms persisted for three months before I visited my primary care physician, who diagnosed me with sinus headaches and suggested that I get my eyes checked.
I knew in my gut that my symptoms signaled something worse than allergies. My own research revealed that my suffering may have been caused by a concussion—a traumatic brain injury that occurs when a trauma to the head or body causes the brain to bounce off of the inside of the skull, changing the way it normally works.
I made an appointment with a neurologist, who confirmed my suspicions. She diagnosed me with post-concussion syndrome, a disorder in which concussion symptoms last weeks or months after the initial injury. The doctor admitted that she wasn’t up to date on the latest concussion research, and told me I could continue playing soccer as long as I didn’t head any more balls.
Five years later, I’m still dealing with the repercussions of that random header.
My story is not unique. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1.8 to 3.6 million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur in the United States each year. In the last decade, children and adolescents seeking emergency room care for such injuries rose 60 percent.
For a condition that was identified decades ago, very little is known about concussion. The biggest mystery? Long-term effects. “There is no blood marker, no gene, nothing specific that diagnoses or predicts outcomes,” says Michael Collins, PhD, director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical College sports concussion program.
Research in the field is booming, but misconceptions persist, says Collins. With no universal standards for coaches, doctors and athletic trainers, you—as an athlete or the parent of an athlete—may be your best line of defense against concussion. Here are 11 things you need to know.