AOA survey explores patient concussion mindsets, apprehensions

Despite all the hype surrounding concussions as of late in the realm of sports and beyond, the general patient public has yet to let the severity of such cranial knocks go to its head, a new study finds.

[See also: Consistent levels of brain abnormality discovered in mTBI patients]

A recent online survey conducted by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) found that only half of those surveyed sought and received medical treatment following a head injury that they assumed to be a concussion. Most respondents cited a lack of “serious-enough” symptoms as the primary reason for not pursuing proper diagnostic care; three in five parents issued the same explanation for not taking their children to see a physician after a possible head injury had occurred.

“Sometimes people don't seem to realize how serious a bump or blow to the head can be," said Jeffrey R. Bytomski, DO, an osteopathic family physician and head medical team physician at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., in a news release. "It might not seem that serious at the time because they didn't lose consciousness or bleed, but this could be a traumatic brain injury and needs to be evaluated by a medical professional."

"It is easy to rationalize and say 'this is just a headache and I am not nauseous or vomiting so it can't be a concussion,'" Bytomski added. "However, they might be missing something that a physician will notice."

[See also: Researchers: No gold standard exists for concussion diagnosis and management]

Nearly one out of every four children suffers from a possible concussion as a result of participating in either school-sponsored or purely recreational sports — survey analysts found that these children (eight out of ten parents said their children were evaluated by a either a coach, trainer or medical professional when injury was obtained in a communal game setting) are far more likely to see a medical professional than those who obtain their injuries at home.  

Although 39 states have incorporated youth concussion laws, six states — Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee, and South Carolina — have yet to implement such legislation. These laws typically mandate that a player who suffers a certain degree of head trauma, which could translate into a concussion, be evaluated by a healthcare professional before they are allowed to return to a given game.

The AOA survey encourages physicians to promote their expertise in concussion matters by appealing their services to patients and patient guardians even if the head injury appears to be minor. Physicians should also inform their patients of the following accurate concussion symptoms, especially if the patient is known to participate in sporting activities:

  • Pain in area of head injury
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion or inability to focus
  • Slurred or incoherent speech

Other key survey results include:

  • Men were more likely than women to report they ever had a concussion. However, along with respondents between the ages of 18 and 29, men were the most likely to say they did not seek treatment because they didn't think symptoms were serious enough.
  • Four in 10 adult respondents said they received their concussions playing sports, making it the most commonly reported setting for this type of injury in grown-ups. This setting followed both in-home injuries and accidents outside the home where three in 10 respondents said they suffered concussions.
  • Even though the survey found that seven in 10 respondents were incorrectly identifying symptoms like "shortness of breath" and "hearing damage" as symptoms of concussion, they still reported feeling confident in their ability to recognize concussion symptoms.

The survey was conducted from Aug. 14 - Aug. 16, 2012, with a total of 1,303 patients completing it.

Image courtesy of Andrew Mason via Creative Commons licensing.

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