The Truth about Concussions

Matthew Grady, MD, and Christina Master, MD, experts in the evaluation and treatment of concussions in children at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, debunk some of the most common myths about concussions.


The Truth on Concussions: Mythbusters

Parent 1 : I make sure my child wears her helmet so she's not at risk for a concussion.

Matthew Grady, MD : Helmets were designed to prevent skull fractures. They do a great job. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to design a helmet yet that prevents concussions.

Christina L. Master, MD : Since a concussion is caused by the fact that your brain is shaking in your skull, you can imagine there's no way a helmet can prevent that. It may reduce some of the forces that may result in a concussion, but a concussion is not ever going to be prevented by having a helmet.

Parent 2 : I really don't have any worries about my son because he's one of those kids that just always seems to bounce back.

Matthew Grady, MD : While children bounce back from most injuries, we know that children take longer to recover from concussion than adults.

Christina L. Master, MD : Certainly, there are some cases where kids can have a concussion and they can recover within a few days. But there are definitely many cases where kids can take longer, and so you want to be ready for that and not just assume that they'll have a short recovery.

Parent 3 : I think she was OK. She didn't pass out. She got up and walked right off the field.

Matthew Grady, MD : A concussion occurs when there's a hit to the head followed by a disturbance in the way the brain works. Loss of consciousness occurs only in about 10 percent of concussions.

Christina L. Master, MD : If you lose consciousness, you probably have a concussion. But even if you don't lose consciousness, you may still have a concussion, so it's really important to remember that fact.

Parent 4 : I want to make sure my daughter doesn't have a concussion. Can you do a CT scan?

Matthew Grady, MD : There are no specific tests that prove you have a concussion. MRI and CT scan do not definitively say you have or do not have a concussion.

Christina L. Master, MD : What they're used for early on in the emergency room is to see if your child has a bleed in the brain, not to diagnose a concussion. So if you get a CT, it's not meant to diagnose a concussion. It's meant to rule out a more severe injury, such as a brain bleed.

Parent 5 : I've heard it's important to wake up a child if they have a concussion just to make sure they're OK every couple of hours. Is that really true?

Christina L. Master, MD : You do not have to wake up your child every couple hours at night if you're worried about a concussion.

Matthew Grady, MD : In fact, waking them up may slow down the healing process.

Christina L. Master, MD : It's really important to remember, then, that rest is the most important treatment for a concussion, and waking your child up every couple hours overnight won't help them get the rest that they need to recover from the concussion.

Student athlete : I can handle the pain. I can play through the pain. I think I've played through concussions before.

Christina L. Master, MD : So it's important to realize that with a concussion, there is no gain from pain, that if you play through the pain, you run the risk of actually making your injury worse and potentially missing more than just a few games, and potentially the entire season.

Matthew Grady, MD : Immediately after the injury, the body is trying to heal itself. And if you divert fuel from the body by exercising or doing too much cognitivity, you slow down the process. If, during that process, you get hit again, the consequences can be catastrophic and can involve months to recover.

Christina L. Master, MD : The quickest way to get better from a concussion is to take care of it right away, pull yourself out, and give yourself the chance to get better. Once you're better, you'll actually get back to play probably sooner than if you continue to play through the pain.

Topics Covered: Concussion

Related Centers and Programs: Minds Matter Concussion Program