soccer player headbutting soccer ball

Concussion Myths – Part 1

There are many misconceptions surrounding concussions. According to our research, one in 10 high school athletes who play contact sports will suffer a concussion this year. Fortunately, our knowledge about concussions has grown since we began treating patients in 2000. In the first installment of Concussion Myths, Alicia Sufrinko, PhD , explains the truth behind many of the most common misconceptions.

Myth: You must lose consciousness to have a concussion.

Fact: Loss of consciousness occurs in less than 10 percent of individuals with concussion. 

Myth: You shouldn’t go to sleep after you sustain a concussion.

Fact: For many years, physicians recommended not going to sleep following a concussion and waking individuals with concussion several times throughout the night. We now know this is not necessary and that rest is the preferred immediate intervention. 

Myth: Male athletes are more likely than females to get concussions.

Fact: Females have a higher incidence rate of concussions and may have more complex recoveries.

Myth: There is no harm in finishing the game after hitting your head.

Fact: Once an injury occurs, the brain is in an extremely vulnerable state and is more susceptible to additional injury. It will take less force to re-injure a concussed brain. In addition, any physical or cognitive exertion immediately following an injury may exacerbate symptoms and prolong recovery. When in doubt, sit it out!

Myth: I don’t need to see a doctor if the only thing he or she will tell me is to get some rest.

Fact: While rest is often the first intervention, there are a number of evaluations that should take place in order to assess the severity of injury and to ensure that a proper treatment plan is put into place. Concussion is a brain injury and must be managed accordingly. 

Concussions are complex injuries, and because every situation is different, we always recommend seeking medical attention from a health professional trained in the management and treatment of concussions. To learn more about concussion treatment, visit the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program website.