Hockey Player Looking onto Ice From Bench

Top 5 Myths Surrounding Concussions

Stay safe by staying informed

Concussions have been a hot topic in the media for the last number of years. Especially after the hit movie Concussion starring Will Smith hit theatres in 2015. After the release of that movie, and the media attention that followed, a tremendous amount of money has been spent on concussion research.

Even with all the hype and media coverage surrounding concussions, we at Elevate Rehabilitation and Performance find that confusion still exists around this common injury.

Let's explore some common myths about concussions that have been debunked in the last few years.

Myth # 1 - Helmets and mouth guards can prevent concussions

While helmets are great at protecting your skull, the brain still remains vulnerable to impact. This is because concussions occur when a force is great enough to cause stretching and shearing of the brain tissue.

Helmets won't prevent this from happening since they are designed to protect your head from impact decreasing the chances of skull fractures. However, they don't prevent those stretching and shearing forces from impacting the brain.

On the other hand, mouth guards were once thought to be able to absorb forces and prevent concussions. There has not been any evidence to show this is true but mouth guards are great at helping with dental injuries.

Myth # 2 - A concussion is more severe if you loose consciousness

Although, it looks very scary when someone looses consciousness after a hit to the head this does not mean their concussion is automatically more severe. In fact, loosing consciousness following a concussion is quite rare. Only 10% of concussions will result in loss of consciousness.

It's best to treat all suspected concussions as serious until the person is seen by a medical professional. Many times symptoms don't appear until hours or even days after injury.

Myth # 3 - Concussions can be diagnosed by MRI or CT scans

Many individuals who come to see us mention the emergency room has ruled out a concussion but they still suffer with common symptoms.

The truth is that concussions can not be diagnosed by MRI and CT scans. Those types of images will look for structural injuries such as brain bleeds. Concussions on the other hand are functional injuries and won't show up on these types of images.

The emergency room at the hospital is looking at ruling out more severe injuries.

Concussions are very subjective and are diagnosed when 2 things occur:

  1. There is a mechanism of injury (such as a blow to the head)
  2. And the person has one or more symptoms (headache, amnesia, loss of balance, etc.)

After this, the person should be removed from play and given a comprehensive assessment to determine next steps of care.

Myth # 4 - Only hits to the head cause concussions

You DO NOT have to be hit in the head to suffer a concussion!

Any force that that can be transmitted to the head can cause a concussion. For example, landing with your legs completely straight or onto your tailbone can cause those forces to travel up to the brain and create those stretching and shearing forces mentioned earlier.

A common criticism of soccer was surrounding headers, especially in children. It was thought that heading the ball so frequently can create the same forces causing concussion. When studied, it was found that most concussions actually result from impacts to the shoulder such as when two players jump up into the air to reach a ball and collide with their shoulders before doing so. The impact at the shoulder would create a force that would travel to the brain and cause a concussion.

Myth # 5 - You cannot fully recover from a concussion

Most people who suffer a concussion recover in 7-10 days.

The danger becomes when a person goes back into sport or activity too soon. Not taking the time needed to fully recover is dangerous and returning too soon can create more severe symptoms and prolong recovery.

One of the best indicators of a quick recovery from concussion is how quickly a person sees a concussion expert. A study showed 5 days after injury to be the cut off - anything beyond that the chances of successful recovery start to decrease.

Lastly ...

Concussions are treatable as long as they're taken care of appropriately. Proper recognition, removal from play and seeking a specialist early are all important to a speedy recovery.

If you have any questions surrounding concussions, please feel free to reach out any time!

- Elevate Rehabilitation and Performance, Mississauga’s premier athletic therapist