10 Common Misconceptions about Brain Injuries

Sep 19, 2013
Tagged with: 10 Common Misconceptions about Brain Injuries

Brain Injury doesn’t always show the same signs from one person to another, and there are several common myths about Traumatic Brain Injuries or TBI surrounding its sources, effects, and prognosis. Some of these ideas came from outdated research, but others are just bad conventional wisdom from clinicians and the general public. Below is a look at the truth regarding 10 major misconceptions about traumatic brain injuries.

1. Mild TBI goes away quickly

In the past, science has thought that while severe TBI might carry permanent deficits, mild brain injury has no lasting symptoms. Unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily true. Although many recover from cognitive problems within three months of suffering mild TBI, others have issues with executive function, memory, and shifting of attention for up to a year or more.


2. All people with TBI have the same symptoms

Since TBI can affect different areas throughout the brain, there is no standard set of symptoms for patients. Symptoms are affected by the type and location of injury, but patient characteristics, such as physical condition and even age and sex of the patient, also have bearing on the severity of symptoms and time necessary for recovery.


3. TBI symptoms appear right away

Immediately after a head injury, a patient might complain of physical symptoms, such as headache and neck pain, without having any neurological deficits. Cognitive problems may not begin to develop until several hours after the injury, and certain issues may only become apparent in certain tasks or environments.


4. Direct head impact is necessary for TBI to occur

Popular culture has developed the idea that brain injury requires the head to be struck by a person or an object, but this isn’t true. Fast acceleration and deceleration of the head, such as in whiplash, can cause TBI when the brain impacts the inside of the skull.


5. TBI only occurs when someone is knocked out

Some patients who suffer head injury lose consciousness for seconds or minutes, but others are only dazed for longer periods, especially with mild TBI. However, a post-concussion syndrome that includes problems with cognition, emotion, and perception may occur.


6. Brain injury can always be detected with CT scans, MRIs and EEGs

Modern imaging technology doesn’t always detect TBI, especially in mild cases. Patients who have documented cognitive problems from TBI may show no abnormalities on these scans. For these reasons, visual proof can mean little in TBI.


7. Neuropsychological testing is only based on opinion

Neuropsychological testing is an objective process that covers a wide range of cognitive issues in TBI patients and can reveal deficits that aren’t easily noticed otherwise. In addition, this testing is useful for measuring changes in cognition over time.


8. Children are more likely to make a full recovery from TBI

This idea is based on the now-defunct idea that brain plasticity only occurs in children. We now know that their ability to rebound is on par with adults. Unfortunately, children don’t always show subtle cognitive problems immediately. They’re less likely to lose consciousness compared to adults, and research has shown that TBI can affect maturation of the brain.


9. Mild TBI is no big deal

Mild traumatic brain injury can cause major problems in a person’s life, including greater risk of mental illness, problems with employability, higher rates of substance abuse, and disruption of relationships. People suffering from mild TBI may suffer from these issues for many years after being injured.


10. IQ is disturbed by TBI

In the past, psychologists have declared patients to be recovered because they showed normal results on IQ tests. However, IQ testing only covers a narrow range of cognitive abilities. Many deficits that affect daily functioning aren’t measured by IQ tests and require specialized testing to reveal.


Author: Shelly Duell