Two New Studies Show Concussion Misconceptions Still Common Among Parents

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There are a fair amount of misconceptions surrounding concussions, and Medical Xpress reports two new studies suggest these widespread misunderstandings and myths could be hindering the treatment and recovery of children who have experienced a brain injury.

The two studies were presented today at a pre-conference symposium on pediatric sports medicine at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference & Exhibition in San Diego.

The first study, titled “Parental Knowledge of Concussion,” surveyed 511 parents of children between the ages of 5 and 18 who sought care at a pediatric emergency department within two weeks of their child’s injury. The surveys included questions about their demographics, their child’s head injury, and general questions about their knowledge of concussions and their treatment.

The findings suggest some concussion education efforts are working, as 92 percent of parents said they were aware their child should stop playing and see a physician if a concussion is suspected. However only 26 percent were aware of guidelines detailing when their child might be able to come back to school and athletics.

“Our study showed that the vast majority of parents knew what to do if they suspected a concussion in their child and in most cases understood the clinical importance of this injury as a brain injury,” said lead author Kirstin D. Weerdenburg, MD, FAAP, pediatric emergency medicine fellow at Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

“The study also highlights that a physician visit shortly after the injury is important to confirm the diagnosis for parents and to inform parents of return to play/learn guidelines to ensure a proper recovery and prevent a second concussion while the brain is still healing,” Dr. Weerdenburg said.

The second study, “Parental Misconceptions Regarding Sports-Related Concussion,” asked two groups of parents to complete an online survey assessing their knowledge of concussions. The first group contained 214 parents whose children were evaluated at a sports medicine clinic for musculoskeletal or mild traumatic brain injuries, while the second group was made up of 250 parents of students at a local private school.

Both groups performed relatively well on the surveys, however several misconceptions were prevalent throughout the participants.

  • About 70 percent in group 1 and 49 percent in group 2 incorrectly believed that brain imaging (CT/MRI scans) can be used to diagnose concussion.
  • About 55 percent in group 1 and 52 percent in group 2 did not know that “bell ringer or ding” is synonymous with concussion.
  • Reduced breathing rate was incorrectly identified as a symptom by 25 percent and 29 percent, respectively.
  • Difficulty speaking was incorrectly identified as a symptom by 75 percent and 79 percent, respectively.

“Our study highlights the fact that many parents are still in need of education regarding concussion identification and post-injury evaluation. Even those highly educated parents were prone to misconceptions,” said senior author Tracy Zaslow, MD, FAAP, medical director of the sports medicine and concussion program at Children’s Orthopaedic Center, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “False perceptions such as the ones pinpointed by our study may impact when medical care is sought after concussion and lead to less than optimal home care.”

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