Athletes often devote hours training for matches, games, or meets, hoping to be prepared for whatever might come their way. Sometimes though, the thing that comes their way is something unexpected and unwanted: a concussion.

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Facts About Concussion

A concussion is an injury that is caused by a direct or indirect hit to the body that causes neurochemical changes in the brain. For example, an elbow to the head after a rebound in basketball or getting side checked in soccer or hockey.

With multiple ways to sustain a concussion, it’s important to be prepared and knowledgeable. Recently released results from a study conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of UPMC in April among over 2,012 U.S. adults shows that 58 percent of athletes (those who have personal experience playing contact sports) believe that they are more knowledgeable than the average adult when it comes to concussion, and yet only 15 percent were able to correctly identify the proper definition of a concussion.

Another troubling statistic is that more than half (52 percent) of the athletes incorrectly believe there is no real way to cure a concussion and that the symptoms can only be lessened. These are common myths.

In fact, concussion is a treatable injury when managed properly. There are at least six different clinical trajectories of a concussion, with each trajectory having its own particular symptoms. Once those trajectories are determined, an individualized concussion management plan can be developed to help a patient with their specific symptoms.

Athletes who have participated in contact sports are more likely to recognize some of the immediate signs. Eighty-four percent know that disorientation or confusion is a sign, versus 78 percent of people who haven’t participated in contact sports. Across the board, athletes have a higher awareness than non-athletes of the signs of concussion, including feeling lightheaded (61% vs. 53%), the inability to speak clearly (52% vs. 42%), and amnesia (33% vs. 27%).

Four in five athletes (80 percent) were also aware that no athlete should be allowed to return to the current activity after sustaining a concussion. After sustaining a possible concussion, athletes should immediately remove themselves from play. Once an injury has occurred, the brain is in an extremely vulnerable state and more susceptible to additional injury. Athletes should be evaluated by a medical professional trained in concussion management.

If ever in doubt, it is always best to sit it out.


This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of UPMC between April 16-23, 2015 among 2,012 U.S. adults age 18 or older, 948 of whom are parents.  For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Deana Percassi, Harris Poll, (585) 214-7212

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.