Misconceptions About Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
Dr. Geoffrey Ling talks about misconceptions about mTBI — from thinking a concussion is different from a mild TBI to believing that a TBI will always come with life-long, debilitating consequences.
[Dr. Geoffrey Ling] So, are there, in fact, misconceptions in the public about traumatic brain injury? I think there are a few, and they do need to be addressed. Number one is having a traumatic brain injury is not necessarily a lifelong, irreversible, debilitating event. You can recover from traumatic brain injury. In fact, mild traumatic brain injury, it's expected that you will recover, and recover fully from it. So that's number one. Second is that traumatic brain injury and concussion are 2 different things. They are not. They are the same thing. A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. That's exactly what it is. Because of that, you have to recognize that it is in fact an injury, and it does need to be taken seriously, much like a sprained ankle does or a fracture, this is a fracture of the brain. This is a sprain of the brain. So a severe traumatic brain injury can be thought of as a fracture of the brain. A concussion can be thought of as a sprain of the brain, and we all know that you'll recover nicely from a sprain if you treat it properly. A mild concussion should not be ignored; it should be seen by a medical professional, and there should be a care plan instituted and most certainly take them away from a risk of having a second injury. So assuming that a concussion and a mild traumatic brain injury are not the same thing is a misconception and a very important misconception. Finally, I would say that the long-term consequences of a mild traumatic brain injury are not scary. It actually is a very recoverable event. Because of that, patients who get this injury need to be cognizant that there is every expectation that they will recover, so because of that they should not try to hide it, they should not try to, in fact, reduce its importance. They really need to take and treat it seriously, because if they do so they will have a very good outcome. The last thing is we all should recognize that the injured patient may not know that they're injured. I think that's very, very important. So if, in fact, we are playing sports with somebody, and we see that they get hurt, and they get up and they dust themselves off and say, "No, I'm fine," they may not be fine, and it becomes our obligation to sit them down and say, "No, sit down, let me take a look at you," because they may not know they're hurt, and it really then becomes incumbent upon us, as their friends, as their family who care about them, to then do the right thing. So, in this case, parents and colleagues have to be proactive on this condition.
Posted on BrainLine January 15, 2013.
Geoffrey Ling, MD, PhD is a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, where he has responsibility for a broad research portfolio. Dr. Ling is an authority on traumatic brain injury, especially as it pertains to the military.
Produced by Noel Gunther, Ashley Gilleland, and Erica Queen, BrainLine.