Some of the fear surrounding a concussion stem from common misconceptions and lack of information about the injury, the possibility of a complete recovery, and safe-return-to-play strategies. At UPMC, we want to dispel these myths with active, multidisciplinary approaches to care, a prolific research program, and evidence-based outcomes.
The Loss of Consciousness Myth
One common myth about a concussion is that it only occurs, or more often occurs, following loss of consciousness. The truth is that concussions occur with or without loss of consciousness. In fact, more than 90 percent of concussions are not accompanied by a loss of consciousness.
A related myth is that when there is a loss of consciousness, this indicates a more serious concussion and a lengthy recovery period. Our research shows that loss of consciousness is not directly correlated to a longer recovery, and may even be associated with a shorter one.
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Our Concussion Research
At the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, we are leaders in concussion research. In our 2011 study, Which On-field Signs/Symptoms Predict Protracted Recovery Times from Sports-Related Concussion Among High School Football Players?, we analyzed specific on-field signs and symptoms following sports-related concussions among a sample of high school football players in Western Pennsylvania.
Because recovering from a concussion varies from person to person, our research team attempted to identify predictors of a longer recovery based on common symptoms. In this study, longer recoveries were considered to last 21 days or more, while rapid recoveries were those under one week. The concussion signs and symptoms analyzed included:
- Loss of consciousness
- Posttraumatic amnesia
- Retrograde amnesia
- Visual problems
- Personality changes
- Sensitivity to light/noise
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When compared with the other on-field signs and symptoms, a loss of consciousness less than one minute was less correlated to longer recovery times than other symptoms. Out of 107 study participants, only two reported loss of consciousness and experienced a longer recovery time. Thirty-four participants complaining of dizziness and 35 participants reporting headaches also experienced long recovery times.
These findings suggest that loss of conscious does not indicate a more severe injury or predict a longer recovery time.
Care for Your Concussion
At the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, we take a multidisciplinary approach to treating concussions based on each individual’s symptoms. Whether a concussion includes loss of consciousness, our team of experts works to individualize care and to develop a treatment program to help every athlete, or non-athlete, eliminate their symptoms.
To learn more about our approach to treating concussions at the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, visit rethinkconcussions.upmc.com to schedule an appointment with one of our experts, call 1-855-93-SPORT(77678).
About Sports Medicine
Sports and physical activity bring with them a potential for injury. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury – or improve athletic performance – UPMC Sports Medicine and the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program can help. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our experts partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers, and about 100 other high school, college, and regional teams and events throughout Pennsylvania – working daily to build better athletes.