Myth 2: Loss of consciousness is necessary to sustain a traumatic brain injury.

In an article written 10 years ago in the journal Neurology, James Kelly and Jay Rosenberg noted that more than 30 years of earlier the then-Congress of Neurological Surgeons concluded that head injury leading to mental status alterations without loss of consciousness is a form of concussion. Dr. Kelly –writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) –noted in certain facts     underscore the need to educate physicians and other health care professionals about the effects of mild head injury. There is a common misconception that forces sufficient to produce loss of consciousness are necessary to cause concussion.

Dr. Michael Alexander, a leading neurologist in the field of caring for people with traumatic brain injury, noted that in mild traumatic brain injury, noted that in mild traumatic brain injury, the duration of unconsciousness is brief, usually seconds to minutes, and in some cases there is no loss of consciousness but simply a brief period of dazed consciousness.

Dr. Randall Evans reported a similar finding in his chapter on traumatic brain injury: “For future studies reasonable criteria for the definition of mild closed head injury would include duration of loss of consciousness of 30 minutes or less or being dazed with out loss of consciousness.”

Neuropsychiatrists also have recognized that one can sustain a mild traumatic brain injury without losing consciousness. According to the American Psychiatric Press’ Textbook of Neuropsychiatry, “Patients with mild TBI may present with somatic, perceptual, cognitive and emotional symptoms that have been characterized as the post-concussion syndrome.” By definition, mild TBI is associated with a brief duration of loss of consciousness, less than 20 minutes or no loss of consciousness at all.

In the Journal of Neuropsychiatry, doctors at Silver and McAlister state they believe there is sufficient clinical and research evidence to suggest that clear unconsciousness is not the sin qua non for brain injury.

You can read my other posts on the 10 myths of traumatic brain injuries here.