Taking the Risk to Play at All Costs

Concussion knowledge of risks not enough to sway attitudes of high school football players

(RxWiki News) Some football coaches instill a "do whatever it takes" attitude to play as hard as possible to win. Athletes can embrace this attitude even through a head injury.

Although high school football players know they are at risk of serious injury, the majority still think it's okay to play after a head injury, according to a study presented at a conference.

Although the findings are still in the preliminary stages, researchers suggested that education alone might not be enough to influence athletes to engage in safe post-concussion practices.

"Take the athlete out after a concussion."

While coaches' knowledge and recognition of concussion symptoms has been established in previous studies, little was known about high school players' knowledge and attitudes.

Brit Anderson, a fellow in training at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio, led researchers in investigating high school football players' knowledge of concussions and whether that knowledge affected their attitudes towards playing while injured.

The study included 120 high school athletes who were surveyed on their knowledge and attitudes about concussions.

Athletes were required to complete one of two validated surveys given one day at the beginning of a competitive high school football camp during the summer of 2012. 

Researchers calculated the average scores in knowledge and attitude for each survey and compared athletes who had above-average scores with those that scored below-average.

A quarter of the athletes reported they previously had a concussion and 70 percent said they had had concussion education.

Researchers found that at least three quarters of the athletes recognized that difficulty concentrating and remembering, as well as sensitivity to light and sound were signs of having had a concussion.

A greater percentage of athletes also recognized that dizziness was a symptom, and more than 93 percent knew that headache was a sign of concussion. 

At the same time, 91 percent of the athletes reported they were okay with returning to play after a concussion, despite knowing that returning too quickly increases the risk for more serious injury.

About 75 percent of the athletes reported they would play through an injury to win a game and 59 percent wouldn't immediately tell their coach if they had any concussion symptoms.

Researchers also found that athletes who had higher concussion knowledge scores did not score significantly better in attitude scores compared to those without as much knowledge.

"Despite having knowledge about the symptoms and danger of concussions, high school athletes were unwilling to report symptoms and to abstain from play," researchers wrote in their report. "Education alone for athletes may not be enough to effectively influence players to practice safe post-concussion behaviors."

The EMS-Ohio Grant funded the study, which has not been published yet in a peer-reviewed journal. The study was presented May 6 at  the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Washington, DC.

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Review Date: 
May 4, 2013