Few areas of medicine are plagued by as many misunderstandings and inaccuracies as sports concussions. In fact, research shows that less than half of youth athletes even know concussions can have negative consequences. And that can lead to very dangerous situations.
1. MYTH – Continuing to play after suffering a concussion has no serious negative consequences
FACT – Football players die nearly every year from Second Impact Syndrome, which occurs when an athlete gets a second concussion before the first has healed. Players that continue to play after suffering a concussion are more likely to have delayed-onset symptoms, indicating that by continuing to play, they are making the concussion worse. Finally, concussed players have slowed reaction time and impaired cognitive skills, making them less able to defend themselves against unimpaired competition.2. MYTH – Concussions have no long-term side effects
FACT – Studies have shown links between concussions and behavioral, emotional, and cognitive disorders, including depression, memory impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease.3. MYTH – Only 5% to 10% of football players suffer concussions each season
FACT – Studies have shown that 50% to 70% of high school and college football players suffer an average of 3 to 4 concussions each season – but most just never tell anyone.
4. MYTH – You can tell when a football player has had a concussion
FACT – Over 90% of concussions are never reported to medical personnel, the vast majority of symptoms cannot be seen by an outside observer, and 50% have symptoms that last less than 2 hours
5. MYTH – Players understand what a concussion is
FACT – 50% of college athletes don’t know concussions can have negative consequences, and two-thirds of high school athletes who don’t report concussions to their trainer don’t report it because they don’t believe the injury is serious enough to mention
6. MYTH – It is safe to return to the same game if a player recovers from a concussion on the sideline
FACT – Athletes that appear to fully recover from a concussion on the sideline still show cognitive deficits on neuropsychological testing 36 hours later, indicating it would not have been safe to return them to play
7. MYTH – Children bounce back from concussions faster than adults, just like any other injury
FACT – Due to the nature of their developing brains, children actually require much more time to recover from concussions than adults. One study found that while the average college athlete recovered from their concussion in 3 days, it took high school athletes 7 days to recover
8. MYTH – If an athlete suffers a concussion in a game, he’ll be fine to play ‘next week’
FACT – 50% of high school athletes who have suffered a concussion have not recovered enough to safely return to contact 7 days later. 30% have not recovered enough to return to play 2 weeks later, and 15% haven’t recovered enough to return to play 3 weeks late
Top experts no longer grade a concussion as ‘mild’ or ‘severe’ on the day of the injury, because there is little correlation between on-field symptoms and length of recovery. If you hear someone, especially a coach or announcer, refer to someone’s concussion as mild during the game, get them up to speed.
9. MYTH – On the day of the concussion, you can predict how long it will take for the athlete to recover based on the concussion severity.
FACT – There is no reliable way to determine which athletes will take longer to recover than others. In fact, it is dangerous to create expectations for the athlete, because he may ignore his symptoms in order to meet those expectations
10. MYTH – The Riddell Revolution football helmet reduces concussions by 30%
FACT – That study, funded and authored by Riddell, has severe methodological flaws that not only calls into question the validity of the data but the intentions of the study