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Awareness and Attitudes of High School Athletes towards Concussions

Monday, October 22, 2012: 2:15 PM
Grand Salon D19/D22 (Hilton Riverside)
Michael Israel, MD, Department of Pediatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR

Purpose: Over the past several years, media coverage of sports-related concussions has increased substantially.  Professional sports leagues, including the National Football League and Major League Baseball, in addition to major media outlets have publicized the potential long-term consequences of traumatic brain injuries in sports.  Furthermore, many state high school athletic associations have taken measures to educate coaches and athletes about the common signs and symptoms of concussions and have enacted regulations to standardize the treatment of affected athletes.  The purpose of this study was to determine if the recent increase in information has improved high school athletes’ knowledge of concussion signs and symptoms and if this knowledge would impact the decision in returning to play. 

Methods: An internet link to a confidential survey was sent to high school football players who had participated at the varsity level.  The survey asked the athletes about their previous concussion history, level of comfort in recognizing concussion symptoms, awareness of potential long-term health risks, and if their attitudes have changed as information has become more readily available.  Questions were presented in multiple choice format and respondents were not required to answer all questions.  The responses were only available to the researchers.   

Results: A total of 134 responses were obtained.  Of the respondents, less than 10% reported that they have been diagnosed with a concussion by a physician or team trainer, while 32% reported concussion-like symptoms at some point over the past two years but did not seek medical attention.  Of these respondents, over half stated that they did not seek attention due to concerns of being excluded from play.  53% of athletes noted that they are more aware of concussion symptoms than they were when entering high school.  However, only 38% reported that they are concerned about the long-term effects of concussions.

Conclusion: Despite the influx of information from scientific research and popular media outlets such as ESPN and Sports Illustrated, high school athletes do not have a substantial increase in concern for the potential effects from traumatic brain injuries suffered during play.  While awareness of symptoms has improved, there is still a great need for education of players, coaches, and parents in order elucidate the possible consequences of concussions.