Fighting myths about concussions

Many parents worry about their children sustaining a head injury while playing sports. As many as 10 percent of athletes will experience a concussion in any given sports season, but what many people do not know about this common injury is that it could put a child at risk.

Hollie Byer knows what it is like to play with pain, she has suffered four concussions.

“I remember just feeling so nauseous after the game,” says Hollie.

The number of injuries has worried her mom Anita, “I think about it even before she goes on the field, the night before she goes on the field.”

Dr. Kevin Crutchfield says there are many myths about concussions parents should know. The first myth is that a person has to lose consciousness to get one.

According to Dr. Crutchfield, a neurologist at LifeBridge Health, "That's not true at all. You don't even have to hit your head to have a concussion."

Another myth: if someone has a concussion, they should be kept awake. But in reality, Dr. Crutchfield says sleeping, or resting the brain, is best for healing.

The next myth is that everyone who hits their head needs a brain scan, when in reality the radiation from scans can be more dangerous than a head injury.

"Their risk of having a surgical lesion and having to go to the OR is dramatically less than your child developing thyroid cancer from the exposure to radiation,” said Dr. Crutchfield.

While many people that helmets help protect against concussion, helmets are designed to only prevent skull fractures.

According to the doctor, "A helmet can never stop the brain from shaking inside the head."

The last common concussion myth is that boys are affected more than girls. The numbers show that the rates are similar among the sexes, but the symptoms may vary.

Concussed boys experience things like balance problems, while girls suffer fatigue or low energy after a concussion.

Hollie knows the dangers but she cannot stay away from the game she loves, "I'm not really afraid to be out on that field because I think that's where I was meant to be." She hopes to make it through this season injury-free.

Dr. Crutchfield says football is the riskiest sport for concussions among males, while soccer is the riskiest among female athletes. About 78 percent of concussions occur during games, as opposed to at practices.

BACKGROUND: A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that can occur whenever something causes the head or brain to move quickly back and forth. This could be the result of a blow to the head, a jolt which causes the brain to shake around inside the skull, or many other injuries. In general, concussions are not life-threatening but, a person is at a higher risk of developing serious problems if they have multiple concussions before the brain can fully heal and their recovery time will be longer.

SIGNS: Common signs of a concussion include things like balance problems, difficulty thinking clearly and sensitivity to noise or light. Typically these symptoms will go away with time and rest, but these signs in adults and children could signify a problem that needs medical attention:
- Repeated vomiting
- Cannot recognize people and places
- One pupil is larger than the other
- Extreme drowsiness or cannot be woken up

ROLE OF SPORTS: Sports are responsible for many concussions, especially in children and teens. In fact, children and teens are more likely to suffer from a concussion than adults and it takes them longer to recover. Recreational activities such as riding a bicycle and playing on a playground are also activities with a high number of traumatic brain injuries, like concussions. Although it can be difficult to avoid the risk of concussion while playing certain sports, quick recognition that someone has a concussion and time off from playing the game should prevent any serious consequences. (Source: www.cdc.gov)

COMMON MYTHS: There are many concussion myths, but here are a few along with the truth behind the myth:
- Children recover from concussions at the same rate as adults. - This is untrue. Children and teens actually recover slower than adults.
- Don't use headache medications because it may hide symptoms. - Taking an over the counter medication for pain from a headache will not cause any further harm and may even be recommended. (Source: www.sportsconcussions.org)


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