With sporting events happening year round, discussions around athlete safety continues. One of those safety topics is concussion. Physical Therapist, Carly Mattson, from TRIA’s Sport Concussion Program talks about some myths about concussions.

You must avoid all activities after a concussion

Avoiding activities that may trigger symptoms are important to limit early on. But avoiding all activity is not necessary. It is important to follow a symptom-dependent progression of activity. An athlete can return to sports after a medical professional has cleared them to play.

To truly have a concussion, you must lose consciousness or “blackout”

Only five to 10 percent of concussions result in a loss of consciousness. A concussion is an injury from a direct blow to the head, neck or face. Or a force directed somewhere else in the body that transfers the force to the head. Symptoms can occur immediately or may evolve over time. There is debate on whether a loss of consciousness indicates how severe a concussion. Research shows loss of consciousness does not affect the long-term prognosis or recovery.

The best helmet or mouth guard can prevent a concussion

There is no evidence that protective equipment will prevent a concussion. Mouth guards and helmets play an important role in preventing mouth, head and brain injuries. The risk of concussion is not affected by the brand, age or style of a helmet or a mouth guard.

It is important to wake a person every 20 minutes after a concussion or shine a light in their eyes to check their status

A change in pupil reaction in mental status indicates a more serious brain injury. These changes would not occur if the patient had suffered only a concussion. A medical professional can help diagnose a concussion or a more serious brain injury.

MRI and CT scans are necessary to diagnose a concussion

A concussion is a functional change to the brain, rather than a structural injury. No abnormalities will show on a standard imaging, like a MRI or CT scan. A brain MRI or CT scan contribute little to a concussion diagnosis. A medical professional may use if they suspect a structural problem. Diagnosing a concussion involves an exam of several areas:

  • Symptoms – headache, fogginess, emotional symptoms
  • Physical signs – amnesia, potential loss of consciousness
  • Behavior changes – irritability
  • Cognitive impairments – slowed reaction time
  • Sleep disturbance – such as insomnia

Take concussions seriously

Athlete safety continues and will continue, to be a high priority for all ages and sports, especially for concussions. When recovering from a concussion, make sure to get treated by a medical professional and learn what the best next steps are for you.