KENILWORTH, N.J., Sept. 15, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- From movies to media coverage to high-profile legal battles, concussions are one of the most debated subjects in the world of sports today. Yet misconceptions about head injuries persist, causing confusion on how to spot and treat them.
As athletes of all ages and skill levels head back to the playing fields this fall, access to accurate information about concussions and the process for properly easing a patient back into the game once they've experienced a head injury is particularly important.
To help clarify some of the concussion confusion, Merck Manuals author and neuroscience specialist Dr. James Wilberger has identified and debunked five common myths surrounding concussions on MerckManuals.com:
Myth #1. A concussion always causes a loss of consciousness.
The whole truth: A concussion is generally understood to be the temporary damaging of brain cells, which alters mental functions and often results in losing consciousness. But many people don't realize they can have a concussion without passing out. People also believe every concussed person vomits from the injury. This is also not true – vomiting may be a sign of a more severe concussion, but it doesn't happen in every instance of a sports-related concussion.
Myth #2. It's dangerous to sleep after suffering a concussion.
The whole truth: This myth developed because doctors encouraged family members to wake up people with concussions every few hours to monitor their condition. Today, this practice is less common, but the sentiment has stuck. In general, if injured people have received medical attention and are following a doctor's instructions, it's not necessary to disturb them every few hours. The lack of sleep could actually make symptoms worse the next day.
Myth #3. Concussions are always caused by a hit to the head.
The whole truth: A direct blow to the head may increase the likelihood of a traumatic brain injury, but you do not have to be struck to suffer a concussion. Rotational forces like whiplash can cause also a concussion, which is why helmets don't offer guaranteed protection.
Myth #4. Medical tests can reveal when the brain is back to normal after a concussion.
The whole truth: MRIs and CT scans can't definitively determine whether the brain has recovered from a concussion. Doctors rely on patients being honest about how they feel, which doesn't always happen, especially when individuals are anxious to get back to playing a sport.
More doctors are recommending that student athletes take a baseline test of cognitive function before their sports season begins. One such test is the imPACT® test – a series of eight computer-based psychological tests. If an athlete suffers a head injury, doctors can re-administer the test to see whether the injury caused any cognitive effects.
Myth #5. Football is responsible for a vast majority of concussions.
The whole truth: Although the risk of concussion on the football field has made headlines recently, a number of other activities present a serious risk for children – including cheerleading, soccer and hockey. Biking accidents and playground falls are also common causes of concussions in children. In fact, among the U.S. population, the Centers for Disease Control reports that falls account for nearly 41 percent of traumatic brain injuries.
The best defense against concussions
Above all else, head injury patients need to be honest with their doctors and follow their advice. When children return to a sport after a concussion, they should be completely free of symptoms.
Doctors will often recommend a graduated return to play schedule, which slowly reintroduces physical activity. Patients can only advance to a more strenuous level of physical activity once they experience no symptoms doing easier exercises. Sticking to these guidelines ensures that children are healthy and ready to get back to enjoying the sport.
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