Fort Worth, Texas,
04:41 PM

5 concussion myths every parent should know

A pediatrician gives the facts on concussions and the child/athlete

The University Interscholastic League (UIL) only tracks concussion data from a sample of 263 schools. In 2014, these districts reported 295 concussions.

Last night, NBC 5 Investigates released an enlightening report looking at the rates of concussions in North Texas districts. This report showed a much higher rate with more than 2,500 concussions reported in just 41 districts.

There are still a lot of misconceptions about concussions, what they are and what they might mean to your student athlete.

Here are 5 concussion MYTHS:

1. It was just a “mild” concussion.

Concussions are brain injuries, period.

One might classify a concussion as mild if symptoms were brief and not severe. However, you cannot predict whose symptoms will be severe based on the way the child was injured or even the symptoms right after the injury.

Even seemingly minor trauma can cause headaches and other symptoms for weeks.

2. If the child/athlete didn’t lose consciousness, it wasn’t a concussion.

Symptoms of concussion vary from child to child but passing out or blacking out are not required to make the diagnosis. Basically if a child has a fall or other injury that results in any neurologic symptoms, they can be diagnosed with a concussion.

Some examples of concussion symptoms are headache, nausea/vomiting, vision changes or problems with concentration and memory. Some of these symptoms may take time to develop, so it’s possible to diagnose a concussion a few days after the injury.

3. Concussions are only a problem for football players.

Almost all sports can cause concussions, including the cheerleaders on the sideline of the football games. Some other sports that are known to have higher incidents are soccer, baseball and softball. Other common causes are kids riding bikes and falling off playground equipment.

4. All concussions need either an MRI or CT of their head.

Most concussions can be diagnosed based on telling your doctor the story of the injury and the related symptoms along with a physical exam. Imaging is not necessary because a CT or MRI will most likely be normal even in the midst of a severe concussion.

Also remember that a CT of the head does not come without risk. While we should perform them when necessary, we should make sure we are not using them in situations where they will not provide useful information.

5. Don’t let your child sleep after a concussion.

Treatment of concussions is evolving. If you suspect your child has sustained a concussion, you should immediately seek medical attention and advice from a doctor about how you should treat your child’s symptoms.

There have been some changes in the treatment of concussions. First, we no longer require that you keep someone with a concussion awake for a set period of time. In fact, after their evaluation, the doctor may recommend that you allow them to sleep in order to help their brain heal. Your doctor might also prescribe some time away from TVs and other screens, school or homework or other activities that might cause their brain to work harder.

Concussions are much more common than we previously thought. I believe that the UIL will make changes to better track the risk of concussions for our high school athletes, which will hopefully lead to better ways of evaluating and treating concussions. In the mean time, don’t buy these common concussion myths.

About the author

Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Lewisville . He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joins Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his 3 young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.

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