In honor of March being Brain Injury Awareness Month, I am going to take a moment to address some misconceptions surrounding concussions. Whether you’re a worried parent, youth sports coach, or amateur sportsman, this information will provide you with some basic facts (and debunk a few myths) about these brain injuries.
FACT: Having a concussion changes the way your brain functions
– Anyone who has had one can attest to the fact that your brain just doesn’t feel right. Whether you suffer from headaches, problems with concentration, poor balance and coordination, or memory loss you will feel a bit off while your brain works to fix the damage.
MYTH: These changes last forever
– This altered brain function is USUALLY temporary and should resolve with proper rest and recovery. *Sigh of relief*
FACT: A blow to the head or violent shaking can cause a concussion.
– You may be thinking Well DUH, but many people who sustain an injury are so caught up in what they are doing that they don’t realize they have a concussion until much later. So, if you’ve been hit or jolted while playing a contact sport or even during a minor traffic accident, be on the lookout for symptoms.
MYTH: If you don’t black out, you don’t have a concussion
– MOST concussions occur without loss of consciousness. Stay on the safe side by treating all head injuries like a possible concussion until either a physician or sports medicine personnel can rule it out.
FACT: Most concussions are mild
– While this is true, all concussions should be taken seriously! The brain needs time to rest and heal fully. This is not the time to play tough guy/girl!
MYTH: You will know immediately after a blow to the head if you have a concussion or not
– Concussion symptoms can be subtle and are not always immediately apparent. Be on the look out for signs several hours, days, or even weeks after any head injury.
FACT: Not all concussions have the same symptoms
– Every brain and every injury is different. Although most concussions result in headaches, there are MANY other symptoms (or combinations of symptoms) to look out for. These include:
- Loss of memory
- Feeling in a fog
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Ringing ears
- Slurred speech
- Dazed/delayed response
- Concentration problems
- Irritability and personality changes
- Sleep disturbances
- Disorders of taste or smell
MYTH: You should feel fine in a week
– The after-effects of a concussion can last days, weeks, or even longer. Because every concussion is different, rather than setting a recovery timeline you should listen to your body and be honest about your symptoms. Additionally, kids and young adults should always receive medical clearance before returning to athletic competition or practice. Give your brain the rest it needs to recover fully.
Remember, even mild concussions should be taken seriously. Taking time off to rest can feel extremely stressful but try to keep things in perspective: having a healthy, fully-functioning brain is more important than your project deadline or high school soccer game. If you need help dealing with the stress or pain after a concussion, you may want to consider the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction classes offered through El Camino Hospital. This is something I recommend to many of my patients who have had concussions. Dealing with the stress of a brain injury can help ease the physical and emotional effects of a concussion and aid in the healing process. For more information and the class schedule, click here.
Disclosure: I’m working with El Camino Hospital to help inform the community about the services; programs and ways that they are helping all of us live healthier lives.