Brain injuries are getting a lot more attention because of the law suit (and subsequent settlement) by veteran NFL players as well as brain injuries being labeled the “signature” injury of the conflicts in Iraq & Afghanistan. Even so, few people understand much about brain injuries in everyday life.

Following are some myths I have heard repeated all too often by well-intentioned but ill-informed people.

Myth #1
“Mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) isn’t serious.”
It’s understandable that the term “mild brain injury” can be misinterpreted. In this situation, “mild” simply refers to the severity of the initial physical trauma – basically that the skull was not fractured - and has nothing to do with the damage to the intricate pathways of the brain and its surrounding soft tissue. In other words, it does not have any relationship to the consequences of the injury.

Myth #2
“The effects of TBI are not long lasting.”

Many people have more symptoms at one year after than immediately following injury.

Myth #3
“MRIs, CT scans and EEGs will identify TBI.”

In Mild TBI, most damage to the brain is on the microscopic level and rarely shows up on these gross scales. It is true the quantitative electroencephalogram (qEEG) may show some abnormalities, but it is not guaranteed to do so.

Myth #4
“IQ tests rule out long term effects of TBI.”

IQ tests assess material already learned but can’t predict how someone will process information in the future. Many brain injured people have tremendous recall of previously learned material but can’t easily acquire new information.

Myth #5
“Loss of consciousness is necessary for it to be a “real” brain injury.”

Many people walk away from an accident or event with a brain injury, but feel only dazed – this is especially common when exposed to blasts and on the playing field. In addition, children rarely lose consciousness.

Myth #6
“Symptoms of a TBI will be evident immediately after an injury.”

Some problems do not show up until much later – sometimes years. This is particularly true of chronic pain such as migraines. I have worked with several people whose pain came on five to seven years after an event.

Myths #7
“Kids don’t get TBIs.”

The majority of brain injuries occur in kids under 10 years old. As stated in Myth #5, children do not lose consciousness as easily as adults so it is much more likely their injuries will go undetected.

Myth #8
“The younger the patient, the faster and more complete the recovery from TBI.”

Measurements used to evaluate brain injury were developed for adults. Because the brain is still developing at the time of injury, the effects may be permanent, but the child’s subsequent developmental problems may never be attributed to the TBI.

Myth # 9
“People are born with all the neurons they’ll ever have so any injury to brain tissue is permanent and repair is impossible.”

Even neurologists once believed this, but it is false. Brain tissue is “plastic” meaning it learns by changing shape. Not only that, there is abundant evidence that new neurons are created, even late in life. Our brains thrive on information, particularly information about how they are performing. That is why neurofeedback is such a gift, especially to the injured brain.