Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Three common myths about brain injury

As somebody who frequently sees patient who have real head injuries, it bugs me how many misconceptions are inflicted upon the public. So I want to share with you three common myths about brain injury that I frequently see in movies and TV shows.

Three common myths about brain injury

1) A second head bonk is not curative

You know what I'm talking about. Somebody gets hit in the head, gets amnesia, and this lasts until something hits them in the head again. And presto, they're cured! Recently I saw this depicted on The Muppets Take Manhattan, which my kids were watching. (Muppets frenzy and all.)

Actually, there is a phenomenon called Second Impact Syndrome, involving getting hit in the head again shortly after a first impact. Unfortunately, this second head bunk does not cure you but rather kills you.

2) You don't wake up from a coma one day and are just totally fine

The length of time you are in a coma is extremely predictive of outcome. If it lasts longer than three months, even if you "wake up", you will almost certainly have severe cognitive deficits. At that point, it is essentially impossible to wake up and be completely normal.

And you definitely won't have a psychic powers. I'm looking at you, Dead Zone.

3) You can't really function in normal society with severe short-term memory loss from a head injury

It wouldn't be possible to have a head injury with severe memory loss, but still be able to drive a car, have normal conversations, normal relationships, or solve mysteries about who killed your wife. You might not even be able to figure out how to bathe or dress yourself.

But you probably could go on 50 first dates with Adam Sandler, because I'm pretty sure that having impaired cognition would be a plus in that situation.


  1. Thanks for this post!

    Is there any way an Alzheimer's patient could fall in love with someone in the nursing home, and remember who the new love is from one day to the next *when the AD is so advanced they've forgotten who their spouse is*? I've seen this in several TV shows and it drives me up the wall.

  2. To quote Dr Nick, when you were you in that coma, did you feel your brain being damaged?

    It's funny how media types use phrases such as "medically-induced coma" to describe ICU sedation. Maybe lay people just understand "coma" better than "sedation"?