Carrick Brain Centers
Concussions are traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) that result from a bump or blow to the head and can also occur during a fall or impact that violently shakes the head and body. While most people who suffer concussions can expect a full recovery, some patients experience long-term or lifelong health issues.1,2
Unfortunately, many misconceptions exist about the diagnosis and treatment of concussions that can exacerbate symptoms in the short- and long-term. Any blow to the head should be taken seriously, even if symptoms don’t appear right away. Early diagnosis, proper treatment methods and preventing a second concussion are key to successful recovery.1,2
The following statements are common misconceptions that can put concussion sufferers at risk.
1. A simple test can diagnose concussions. This is not always the case. Many concussions can’t be diagnosed with a cranial computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test, according to Howard Derman, director of the Methodist Concussion Center in Houston. Evidence of a concussion often does not appear on CTs or MRIs.3
CT scans and MRIs are often necessary and used for older adults with head traumas, people who experience a serious accident or fall or if post-injury symptoms are exaggerated, not improving or getting worse. For patients who are showing few or no signs, the physician will conduct a neurological exam to evaluate: memory/concentration; vision; hearing; balance/coordination; strength/feeling; and reflexes.2 Expect and ask for a full neurological exam if concussion is suspected.
2. If the injured person says they feel fine, listen to them, they are. This is never a good idea, especially when it’s coming from athletes who want to get back in the game. Further, they may not have good judgment after a head injury or know what symptoms they should be looking for after impact. In addition, it might be days or weeks before signs of concussion begin to appear.1
3. Sleeping is dangerous if you have a concussion. Untrue! In fact, sleep, rest and taking the appropriate time to heal is key to overcoming a head injury.2
4. It doesn’t matter how old you are, concussions affect people of all ages the same. This is another myth about concussions that numerous studies have proven false. Children actually may not present symptoms of TBIs and concussions until months or even years after the initial trauma occurs. For this reason, it’s crucial to monitor people with head injuries (especially if injury occurred at a young age) throughout their lives to help them cope.4
5. You should avoid all pain remedies (OTC or prescribed) if you have a concussion. In truth, if the patient is in pain, there are acceptable remedies available. Don’t hesitate to consult the treating physician and ask for pain medication if concussion-related headaches occur. In most cases, acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) can be used to treat pain, while aspirin and ibuprofen (such as Advil, Motrin) should be restricted as these meds can increase the chance of bleeding.2 Talk with your doctor first.
6. Concussions are no big deal, after a few days of rest the patient’s life can resume as normal. This misconception is one of the most dangerous on the list. One of the biggest threats to patients with head injuries is a subsequent injury that occurs before the original concussion has had time to heal. While rare, this condition – second impact syndrome – can lead to life-long, debilitating symptoms and even death.
Concussions ARE a big deal. If you or a loved one has experienced any sort of head trauma, talk with your doctor. Getting treatment early, taking time to heal and avoiding future head trauma can ensure patients lessen the odds of long-term health consequences.
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2. “Diseases and Conditions: Concussion.” Mayo Clinic website, www.mayoclinic.com. Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/concussion/basics/tests-diagnosis/con-20019272. Accessed Feb. 24, 2014.
3. “Sports Concussion: Myths and Facts.” Health section of U.S.News and World Report website, http://health.usnews.com. Available at http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2012/02/29/sports-concussion-myths-and-facts; Feb. 29, 2012. Accessed Feb. 24, 2014.
4. “Brain Injury in Children.” Brain Injury Association of America website, www.biausa.org. Available at http://www.biausa.org/brain-injury-children.htm. Accessed jan. 20, 2013.