This is the final part of a three part series addressing myths about concussions, with factual answers provided by Virginia experts on this medical condition.
Myth: If you or your child have suffered a concussion playing a sport, it’s a good idea to get a head CT scan at the hospital.
Fact: You or your child should seek medical care or go to the hospital emergency department. The medical professionals will do a thorough neurological exam, including evaluating your balance, coordination, mental state, how your eyes are tracking, and other measures for a period of time. They will also collect information such as, did you lose consciousness? What were your immediate symptoms? What are your symptoms now? If your symptoms start to get worse and your condition starts deteriorating while under observation, they will probably do a head CT at that point to check for other injuries such as a brain bleed, which is not typical in a sports concussion.
Myth: Concussion patients should be awakened every few hours, so they don’t lose consciousness.
Fact: This is no longer recommended. While checking on the patient within the first four hours of a concussion is important, the risk of a more serious brain injury typically passes after approximately four hours. After that, the individual should be allowed to rest, sleep and conserve energy for the next 48 to 72 hours. After that initial 48 to 72 hour rest period, the patient should maintain their normal sleep pattern. Napping during the day can disrupt this. So can screens, which can also be an issue for visual symptoms and sensitivity to bright lights. Screen time may need to be reduced and limited for up to an hour before bedtime to not disturb sleep patterns and get good rest.
For more information on traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, contact the Virginia Department of Health at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/injury-and-violence-prevention/ or the Virginia Concussion Initiative at concussion.gmu.edu.