The 4 Concussion Myths Every Athlete Needs to Know

It is really hard as an athlete to know what to think when you hear “concussion.”   What words come to mind?  What do you feel?  Fear? Do you fear the diagnosis?  The consequence of the diagnosis?  Do you fear the future?  Wow, that’s a lot of fear!

Fear is definitely what we do not want around concussion and sports.  And the first step: addressing some of the biggest myths surround the injury and replacing with education, knowledge and empowerment.

Myth #1: I have to lose consciousness to get a concussion.

Or If I pass out, my concussion will be worse. 

Absolutely not. Most concussions do not involve loss of consciousness.  And if you have a loss of consciousness, it does not dictate the severity of your concussion.  Often situations where the patient did not lose consciousness but had suffered whiplash combined with pre-existing ADHD and migraines fared worse in terms of recovery.  True, loss of consciousness changes what physicians might worry about.  But concussions DO happen WITHOUT loss of consciousness.

Myth #2: I have to hit my head to get a concussion.

Nope.  Whiplash-type injuries have high potential for a concussion diagnosis.  Your brain floats in water like a boat near a dock.  If the wind whips up and causes a huge wave, the boat still slams into the dock, causing damage to the boat.  The dock didn’t move, but the boat, did. 

Myth #3: Wearing a helmet or soccer band will help prevent concussion.

Don’t we all wish?  Helmets are necessary.  But your helmet is preventing you from having brain bleeds and skull fractures.  Basically, the really horrible stuff.  Soccer bands are actually associated with HIGHER risk for concussion.

Myth #4: There is nothing to do for concussion, so I will stay home and manage this on my own.

No, no, no, no!  This is how we get into trouble.  Concussion research changes ALL the time.  This means management and what is the best for the patient is changing all the time as we learn new information.  We now know some brain rest is good but too much increases risk of increased anxiety and depression.  Don’t stay home and try to manage this on your own.  Seek out a qualified health care professional. There are all sorts of different ACTIVE management things we can do for concussion.  (Stay tuned for more blogs about this!) The answer is likely not sitting in a dark room for a week.  And the answer is not just wait for things to get better.  You get one brain.  Seek help; remember there is a beginning and an end to every concussion. 

Have you had concussion?  What did you do to treat yours?  How long did you miss out on normal activity?  Leave your comments and please forward this article to someone you think would find it useful.

Dr. Sherrie Ballantine is a board-certified sports medicine physician with the CU Sports Medicine and Performance Center in Boulder, Colorado and organizes the Women in Sports Medicine Conference.