5 Concussion Myths Debunked

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. Test your concussion knowledge with Abbott neurologist Dr. Beth McQuiston.

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Diagnostics Testing | Mar. 8, 2017

When people think about concussions, they often think about athletes, but athletes aren’t the only ones at risk for brain injuries.

A concussion may occur when someone suffers a blow to the head or has an external force shake or jostle their brain – like from whiplash in a car accident. Surprisingly, most concussions result from slips and falls.1

Dr. Beth McQuiston, a neurologist and medical director for Abbott's Diagnostics business, cared for many people who had suffered concussions when she was working clinically. In fact, U.S. ERs see about 2.2 million visitors each year from TBI injuries.1

"Despite all of the attention on concussions, there are still many misconceptions about these injuries," says McQuiston.

As March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, we're separating fact from fiction and setting the record straight on common concussion myths you may have heard.

What’s your concussion IQ? Take a few minutes to learn the facts.

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MYTH 1: Athletes are the only people at risk of concussion.  Concussions can happen to anyone, anywhere. Falls actually account for 40 percent of all concussions in the United States, causing 81 percent of concussions among adults 65 and older and more than half of concussions among children 14 and younger.1

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MYTH 2: You need to lose consciousness to have a concussion.  Most people with a concussion do not lose consciousness. Symptoms for mild brain injuries can vary, so while some people do lose consciousness, other symptoms to look for include headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, imbalance or vision changes. Unfortunately, some of these symptoms can be mistaken for other common conditions like dehydration, migraines or a bad night's sleep.

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MYTH 3: You need to hit your head to get a concussion.  This is one of the most common concussion misconceptions. While most concussions typically occur after you hit your head, that isn't always the case. Concussions can also occur when an external force shakes or jostles the brain inside the skull, such as from whiplash.

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MYTH 4: If you have a concussion, you shouldn’t go to sleep.  Actually, sleep and rest are usually recommended for people who have suffered a concussion. Much like when you have to rest your ankle after a sprain, you brain needs dedicated R&R after an injury too. It's important to check with your doctor and follow their instructions.

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MYTH 5: If your head imaging tests (such as CT scans) are normal, then you don’t have a concussion. CT scans can help, but the majority of mild brain injuries show normal imaging even though an injury has occurred. Because of this, many concussions go undiagnosed and untreated.

"Quickly diagnosing a concussion is critical for doctors to recommend appropriate treatment and prevent further injury," said Dr. McQuiston. "But you can't treat what you don't know."

That's why Abbott is working to develop rapid blood tests designed to help evaluate brain injuries. Until such diagnostic tests are available, it's important for all – family, friends, parents and coaches – to learn what to do if they think someone may have a concussion. Like many other injuries, the sooner people are properly diagnosed, the sooner they can rest, recover, return to good health and may get back to the activities they enjoy most.

References

1Traumatic Brain Injury in the United States: Fact Sheet. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Website: http://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/get_the_facts.html