When working with athletes that have an inherent amount of risk in their sport, it's important that we are educated and ready for any injury they may have. Most people know that physical therapy is the best way to recover from an injury to a muscle, bone, tendon, or ligament. Whether that's a recurring irritation or something that required surgery, physical therapy is there to help you recover and bounce back.
However, many people don't know that physical therapy is also a necessary service to identify and recover from concussions or other traumatic head injuries. Most people think that concussions can't happen to them, or they think that if it does happen they will just rest and it will resolve. Concussions, also known as mild traumatic brain injuries (TBI), can happen to anyone, and if it does happen, you need to think more than just about rest to recover fully and efficiently.
In this blog we are going to identify three common myths that limit the way people think about and understand concussions. Helping people better understand concussions and head injuries is how we elevate our community and fully support those who have had these injuries. Let's start with the myth busting!
Myth: Concussions only happen to athletes
You may think that only in a contact sports can you get a concussion. That's wrong on a few different levels.
First, you can get concussions from non contact sports. In kids, only 40% of concussions come from a contact sport. While much attention is paid to heavy contact sports like football, hockey, and MMA, the non-contact sports and the general public make up more than half of all the concussions reported.
Second, you don't need to be playing a sport or recreational activity to get a concussion. Only 70% of all concussions come from sport or recreational activity, meaning 30% of concussions come from non-sport or non-recreational activity. These happen during daily events, traffic accidents, work-related accidents, falls, acts of violence, or explosions.
The general public can get concussed during normal everyday events. I've seen concussions from people falling on the ice (actually really common in the Northeast), from banging their head under the kitchen sink, and from getting struck with a kids toy that should not have been airborne.
You don't need to be playing a sport to have a concussion. Thinking that this only happens to athletes excludes a large population of people that also need help, but aren't labeled as athletes. Concussions aren't choosy. They can happen to anyone.
Myth: Wearing a helmet will protect you from a concussion
You would think this idea would have phased itself out over time considering the rates of concussion we see in sports that require helmets. Unfortunately, it's common for people to feel falsely protected by a helmet.
A helmet's job is not to protect you from a concussion. A helmet's job is to protect you from breaking your skull. It stops the boney injury to your head and face, not the tissue injury that happens to your brain during a concussion.
In this article about helmet designs for concussion in the ski and snowboard industry, it's reported that "Ski and snowboard head injury patients were no less likely to experience a concussion when wearing a helmet."
Helmet technology is advancing however, and understanding more about concussions is helping engineers to design a better helmet that protects the skull and mitigates the forces that cause concussions, or mild TBIs.
Newer helmets do have improved features that may reduce the risk of concussion, but we don't expect that we will ever be able to fully eliminate the risk for concussions. The best practice is to be proactive and avoid blows to the head.
Myth: If you don't pass out, you probably don't have a concussion
I've learned from personal experience that most concussions don't lose consciousness. I've seen it on the field as an athlete, on the slopes as a coach, and in the clinic as a provider. Don't believe me? Here is the CDC saying this exact statement.
This can be confusing because you would think that the person who passed out must have had a more severe injury. There is an idea that passing out may actually be your bodies own protection mechanism. We don't know exactly how this works, but it's not uncommon to see someone with a head injury who passes out recover much faster and easier than someone with a head injury who doesn't pass out.
Don't assume that because someone didn't pass out, they aren't concussed. You also can't assume that because someone did pass out, they are concussed.
Passing out has nothing to do with diagnosing a concussion. It's part of the history, we take note of it, but it has little effect on how we address the person in front of us.
When we change the way we think about concussions we change the way we react to concussions. This is a vital part of changing the culture of how we address this. We now know that:
Concussions can happen to anyone
Helmets don't provide full protection from concussions
Most people with concussions don't lose consciousness
One of the first things we will teach clients to help them learn to control their symptoms is breath work. Breathing is an incredibly powerful tool that we can use everyday, but we often take it for granted. We will help clients learn to control their breath, and that helps them feel more comfortable throughout the day. We will also utilize other breath work providers as needed to help our clients fully explore this powerful tool. If you're interested to learn more about the benefits of breathing well, you can get an appetizer for it right here.
We know we will see these type of injuries throughout ski and snowboard season, but it happens all year too. Our clients live their lives, and unfortunately, this is something we deal with at times. We are educated and prepared to handle this injury, and we are part of a team that will help each client fully recover.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with a recent head injury and would like to find out more about what's going on, have them reach out to us. We are happy to talk to anybody about how to feel better and recover from this injury. #snowbeastperformance