soccer player headbutting soccer ball

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, Ph.D., 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 concussions.

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: Although the number of total males engaging in contact sports is higher than the number of males, 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, a comprehensive evaluation should take place in order to assess the severity of injury and to ensure that a proper treatment plan is put into place. In some situations, excess rest may negatively influence recovery.

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.