Debunking the Top Concussion Myths
While concussion is a common sports-related injury, there’s a lot of differing information about the causes, risk factors, and recovery process.
Michael “Micky” Collins, PhD, director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, is a world-renowned concussion expert. Dr. Collins and team treat athletes of all ages and skill levels, from young athletes just starting organized sports, all the way to professionals players right here in Pittsburgh and across the country. Expert treatment is not just limited to athletes, as concussions can also occur in the tasks of everyday life.
Myths and Facts About Concussion
Here are Dr. Collins’s top myths about concussions—and the facts that dispel them.
#1 Myth: A concussion occurs only with a direct blow to the head.
Fact: A concussion is caused by a direct blow to the head, face, neck, or elsewhere on the body if the force of impact is transmitted to the head.
#2 Myth: A concussion occurs only when an athlete experiences a loss of consciousness.
Fact: Concussions can occur with or without loss of consciousness (LOC) and, in fact, about 90% of concussions do not result in LOC.
#3 Myth: Everyone is at the same risk for concussion.
Fact: Various factors, including age, gender, and medical history put an individual at risk for sustaining a concussion.
#4 Myth: It is safe for a player to return to the same game or practice after experiencing concussion-related symptoms.
Fact: There are many different signs and symptoms of concussion. An athlete who displays any of these concussion symptoms should not return to the current game or practice, even if the symptoms clear quickly.
#5 Myth: All concussions, treatments, and recoveries are alike.
Fact: No two concussions are identical. Our research has identified six different clinical trajectories for concussion.
#6 Myth: You must rest in a dark room to recover from a concussion.
Fact: While rest is an important part of concussion recovery, it is not the only treatment for concussion, nor is it necessary to rest in a dark room. Evidence-based active treatments for concussion, such as vestibular therapy, vision therapy, and exertion therapy, as well as some medications, are crucial to recovery.
#7 Myth: Having one concussion places you at increased risk for future concussions.
Fact: Recovery from one concussion should not put an athlete at risk for another, although there are some inherent conditions—migraines for example—that can put you at a higher risk. Proper clinical management is the best form of prevention of future concussions.
#8 Myth: Concussions definitively cause long-term brain damage and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Fact: Potential long-term effects from concussion come primarily from poorly managed injuries. Scientific studies linking concussion and long-term effects are still in progress and have yielded no definitive conclusions.
#9 Myth: Helmets and mouthguards can prevent concussions.
Fact: While helmets can protect against skull fracture and severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), there is very little evidence that any particular type of helmet reduces the incidence or severity of concussion more than another. The same goes for mouthguards.