Pediatric HealthSource: Common Concussion Myths

Dr. Steven Cuff
Dr. Steven Cuff sees a young patient at a Nationwide Children's Hospital clinic.

Q: I’ve heard a lot of concern about concussions, but young athletes take hard hits all the time. Are concussions really that serious?

A: To define it simply: A concussion is, in fact, a type of traumatic brain injury. There are several myths about concussions that make people think they’re less of a concern than they really are, but they should always been taken seriously.

Myth: My child didn’t get hit in the head, so they can’t have a concussion. The majority of concussions do involve direct impact to the head, such as the head hitting the ground or another hard surface, but concussions can also occur from a blow to the body that causes the head to move suddenly or abruptly change its direction, leading to an indirect force being transmitted to the brain.

Get top reads, event recommendations, guides, parenting trends and more ideas for family fun. Subscribe to Columbus Parent’s weekly e-newsletter, The Bulletin.

Myth: My athlete didn’t black out, so that’s not a concussion. Fewer than 10 percent of concussions involve a loss of consciousness. Some young athletes who don’t black out after a hard hit may think it’s OK to keep playing, but it is extremely dangerous to play through a concussion. Symptoms don’t always start immediately, and they can evolve over time after an injury. Playing through a concussion could lead to a rare condition called Second Impact Syndrome—a situation typically seen only in people younger than age 21 that can result in paralysis or even death from a subsequent blow to the head. We also know from research studies that athletes who continue to play following a concussion are more likely to have prolonged symptoms compared with those who stop right away and get checked out.

Myth: A concussion is a bruise to the brain. A concussion is actually a functional injury, which means it affects how the brain works. This is why symptoms of a concussion can include trouble remembering and concentrating, and feeling confused.

Always consult your child’s pediatrician concerning your child’s health.

For more concussion info, download a free guide for parents.

Steven Cuff, M.D., is co-director of the Sports Concussion Program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Because concussions happen so often in young athletes, parents should:

  • Recognize the signs – Common symptoms include headache, dizziness, confusion, and difficulty with concentration and memory. Later symptoms can include changes in sleep or emotional changes.
  • Remove your athlete from play – If a concussion is suspected, your child needs to be immediately removed from the game. While this is frustrating for a child or teen, parents should ensure that they do not continue to play before they’ve been properly examined.
  • Seek immediate care – Your athlete should be evaluated and cleared by a medical professional who is trained to manage concussions. The best early treatment for concussions is physical and mental rest, which allows the brain to recover.

Pointers for Parents