By Hoa Quach
A new movie may highlight the impacts a concussion can have on the body, but misconceptions still surround the brain injury.
Two San Diego doctors said there are misunderstandings about what causes a concussion, its effects and how to prevent it. Their comments come as “Concussion,” a film about a forensic pathologist’s efforts to highlight brain damage caused from playing professional football, debuts Christmas Day.
“It’s a functional brain injury,” Alan Shahtaji, a family medicine doctor at UC San Diego Health who specializes in sports medicine, said. “There isn’t damage or injury to the brain that we can see. It’s like the connections in the brain are disrupted.”
Shahtaji said a concussion can happen even without direct head trauma and not everyone who experiences a concussion will lose consciousness.
“No concussion is the same,” Shahtaji said. “Everyone is very different in terms of what they experience.”
Another misconception is the thought that your skull protects your brain, said Samantha Madhosingh, a clinical psychologist in San Diego.
“We tend to think that better helmets or more cushioning will help,” Madhosingh said. “That doesn’t really do anything. What you’re protecting is the skull – it doesn’t do anything for the brain.”
Despite common misconceptions of a concussion, both doctors said the U.S. has made advancements when it comes to prevention.
“There’s been a lot of rule changes to mitigate and decrease the risk of high-risk activities (in professional football),” Shahtaji, who is also a team physician for the U.S. Soccer Federation and currently plays for the U.S. Medical Soccer Team, said. “At the lower levels, in Pop Warner, they’re minimizing the amount of overall contact.”
It’s hard to completely avoid a concussion but it isn’t impossible, Shahtaji said.
Shahtaji said people can be more aware of the activities they do and whether they could cause trauma to the brain.
“What are your activities and is that risk necessary and worth it?” Shahtaji said. “Looking at your choices is really important.”
Madhosingh urged people, particularly parents, to research the activities their children participate in.
“As a parent, if you have a child who plays football, this is something you really need to think about,” Madhosingh said. “What we know is concerning enough.”
Tips on decreasing your risk:
• Wear your seatbelt.
• Wear proper gear during physical activities. According to Kami Hoss, a San Diego orthodontist, having a proper mouth guard can lessen the chances of a concussion.
• Examine any potential hazards around your house
Visit the Centers for Disease Control website for more prevention tips.