5 myths and facts about concussions

If you or anyone you know has suffered a concussion or multiple concussions, you will know just how impactful these can be.

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June is concussion awareness month in Canada, and I wanted to share my healing journey as well as dispel some myths about concussions. Concussions were previously prevalent in sports injuries and the long-term impacts on athletes has finally opened up our understanding of concussions and how they impact our lives beyond sports.

I suffered a concussion in 2018 when I had a car accident. I was seriously ill and driving to the doctor when the pain caused me to momentarily zone out while driving. We got to a stop sign and I rear-ended the car in front of me. While they mostly just had their back bumper bent, my van sustained most of the damage - $8,000 to be exact - thankfully covered by insurance. But more importantly the jolt resulted in both whiplash and a concussion. It took me over a year of intense therapies to get me back to functioning somewhat normally. I am now sharing 5 myths about concussions in the hopes enlighten you and raise your awareness on exactly what concussion is and why it is important to understand them.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury—or TBI—caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. - CDC

Concussions are sometimes referred to as "mild" traumatic brain injuries. If you have suffered one or multiple, you will know that there is absolutely nothing mild about concussion injury and the recovery is quite serious.

Here are some myths and facts concussions:

Myth 1: You have to be unconscious to suffer a concussion

Nope! Unconsciousness can be one of the symptoms of concussion. However, this is NOT a pre-requisite. Any sudden movement or jolt to the head or the neck can result in a concussion. What is even more frustrating is that a lot of medical professionals don't know this. When I first met the doctor at the walk-in clinic right after my accident, he kept asking me if I lost consciousness due to the impact on me. I didn't - but that didn't rule out the concussion.


Myth 2: You have to bang your head to suffer a concussion

My insurance who were being evasive about covering my injuries kept insisting that if I didn't hit my head on the steering wheel then it was not a concussion. This is false. Guidelines on concussion injury have been updated as recently as 2021. While having something hit your head hard can certainly result in a concussion, it is also not a prerequisite. The back and forth movement of the neck for example in a car accident would result in a concussion without having banged your head.


Myth 3: If you don't have symptoms immediate it's not a concussion

This is another false myth. Concussion symptoms can show up hours, days and even up to a week after the incident. Symptoms also tend to intensify with time. When you suspect that you have suffered a concussion it is important to take note of symptoms and monitor to see if any of the symptoms worsen or get better. For me, one of the persistent symptoms was a headache. I am generally not prone to headaches. When I noticed that I had a persistent headache that was not letting up, I knew something was wrong.

Myth 4: You can see or diagnose concussions through a CT Scan or an X-ray

A concussion results in a functional injury meaning it affects how your brain works and not a physical injury which is what a CT scan measures. As a result, a CT Scan will NOT tell you whether a person has suffered a concussion or not. 95% of concussion patients have a clear CT Scan which makes it challenging to diagnose. However, there are documented scientific approaches to diagnosis of concussion.


Myth 5: You only need to rest for a few days if you have suffered a concussion

Concussion recovery often takes weeks and even months even if the concussion was relatively mild. The brain is a very sensitive organ and any interference to its functioning will take time to recover from. It is important to have a medical professional provide you with the tools for recovery and adhering to the recommended approach will facilitate recovery.

To learn about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of concussion on the government of Canada concussion guidelines website.

I hope you learned something new about concussions. Stick with me this month as I share more on the blog!

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