Someone mentioned the other day on Twitter that we need to stop calling concussions “concussions” and start calling them what they are – traumatic brain injuries.
It totally makes sense. Our terminology has gotten really skewed, I suspect because anything relating to the brain and injuring it … well, it freaks people out, and they stop listening.
So, if you want to educate a skittish public, you have to find a word they can relate to. I’ve done it myself.
But I think it’s time to stop.
Because our terminology is flawed. And because words affect how we think about things, we really can’t think about this problem properly, until we really understand what we’re discussing.
This explains it more clearly to me — a concussion is the event that shakes the brain or smashes it against the inside of the skull. A traumatic brain injury is the result.
Confusing the two just muddies the waters. And when you think about what the words really mean, it becomes increasingly nonsensical.
In everyday terms, it’s like prescribing treatment for a car accident, rather than the injuries it produces. Everybody knows that car accidents come in all different “flavors” and degrees of seriousness. Likewise with brain injuries from concussion. And like car accidents, concussions come in many varieties. There’s an infinite number of ways to get your brain shaken and smashed inside your skull. And the results vary.
Plus, talking about the originating event is superficial.
When someone crashes their car, you don’t treat the collision. You treat the injuries that result from the collision.
When you get hit in the head, you don’t treat the impact of the object against your head, you treat the result of the impact.
No doctor treats a bicycle accident. They treat the broken bones, bruises, and contusions after the accident.
Saying “you had a concussion” is literally saying “you had a collision”. In and of itself, that statement means nothing. “Concussion” just means you got shaken, rattled, and rolled. It doesn’t indicate any particular injury. It implies there may have been an injury. But when it comes to the effect, that’s where traumatic brain injury becomes relevant.
And until we start calling things by the terms that they really are, our approach and ability to respond to this “crisis” is going to lag and limp along.
So, let’s start calling things what they are, and really get down to work.