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Concussion fact or fiction

Published in Brain & Spine Care, Pediatrics, For the Health of It Author: Tracy Ardruser, PT

Editor's Note: September 21st is National Concussion Awareness Day. In Central Minnesota, Project BrainSafe is a local collaborative helping to improve the recognition, diagnosis and management of concussions for people of all ages living in Central Minnesota.

To help us learn more about concussions, their symptoms and to confirm (or dispel) some popular beliefs about them, we're happy to have Project BrainSafe's Tracy Ardruser's help. Tracy is also a pediatric physical therapist and Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation Services for St. Cloud Hospital.

Without further ado, on with the questions...

Fact or Fiction: You can get a concussion without hitting your head.
Tracy: Fact. While a concussion is often caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head, it also can be caused by a hit or jolt to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, resulting in injury to brain cells. This is most commonly seen following car accidents (whiplash), however can also be the result of sledding accidents, non-accidental shaking of a child and blast injuries (military) among others.

Be familiar with the signs and symptoms of a concussion (see graphic below) and seek appropriate medical attention if you suspect you or someone you know may have sustained a concussion.

Fact or Fiction: If my child doesn’t play contact sports then I don’t need to worry about his or her risk of concussion.

Tracy: Fiction. Just as there is no such thing as a concussion-proof helmet, there is no concussion-proof sport. While of course there are higher rates of concussion in contact sports, we have also seen concussions from sports such as soccer, basketball, dance and swimming. Young athletes are dependent on parents and coaches to watch for the warning signs of a concussion and to remove anyone from the game, practice or activity if they suspect a head injury. “When in doubt, sit them out.”

Also, keep in mind, that concussions don’t just happen in sports. As a matter of fact, it is estimated that 40 percent of concussions are the result of falls and an additional 14 percent are the result of motor vehicle accidents.

Fact or Fiction: A parent or coach can judge the severity of a concussion.

Tracy: Fiction. While parents and coaches play a pivotal role in identifying concussion symptoms and getting treatment, the severity of a head injury should only be determined by a health care provider trained in the diagnosis and treatment of concussions. You often cannot determine the extent of a concussion immediately. Some symptoms may not show up for hours or even days after an incident.

The brain needs time to heal after a concussion. By working with a health care provider who is experienced in evaluating and treating concussions, he or she can guide the athlete back to school and sport as quickly, but as safely as possible. Continuing to play after sustaining a concussion and/or returning to sport too soon can not only be detrimental to one’s recovery, it also can put them at risk for additional and sometimes very serious injury. 

Learn More About Project BrainSafe

Project BrainSafe is a community-wide collaborative committed to improving the recognition, diagnosis and management of concussions for people of all ages living in Central Minnesota.

Find out more at