So what’s in your media feed? I know it might surprise you but I have my daily feeds search for the latest on concussions and concussion research. Yes, I browse through the latest concussion news as I drink my morning coffee. It helps me stay current and relevant to this discussion.
Recently I read some interesting research findings published by Children’s National Health System that said for every 1 concussion that occurs in the NFL an estimated 50,000 concussions occur in student athletes. Let’s do that math. The NFL reported 244 concussions in the 2016 season. 244 x 50,000 = 12.2 million concussions in youth athletes. That is a staggering number of brain injuries.
Yet, CDC data shows that an average of only 2.5 million concussions are reported annually. That means if these medical estimates are right, as few as 1 in 5 concussions are being reported and medically treated. Despite increased education and implementation of stronger laws and policies, culturally we are still fighting an uphill battle when it comes to getting our athletes to take concussions seriously.
Again and again, surveys from numerous sources affirm that athletes continue to resist self-reporting of concussion symptoms to be able to stay in the game. Athletes admit to underreporting even when they know the signs and symptoms and know that they could risk serious injury or death if they continue to play with a concussion or return to play too soon. If others do not easily detect their symptoms and they can push through the pain or discomfort, more times than not athletes will keep it to themselves and play on. The CDC interviewed nearly 800 high school athletes and 69% of athletes with a possible concussion played with concussion symptoms.
Various studies report that athletes give these reasons for not reporting:
• Did not think they injury was serious enough to report
• Did not want to be pulled from competition
• Did not want to let down teammates
• Did not want to let down coaches
• Did not know the event was a concussion
• Did not want to be removed from practices
Recent studies are consistent with a 2010 ESPN poll of players, coaches, parents and athletic trainers in 23 states, which found that players are still the group least concerned about concussions. When asked whether, if a star player got concussed, they would rather lose the title game as he/she sat out than win it because he/she chose to play with a concussion, more than half (54.1%) of the players in the ESPN survey said they would rather play the star compared to 9% of athletic trainers, 6.1% of parents, and 2.1% of coaches.
Again and again, the research affirms that we are just getting started with the concussion discussion. We are making some headway reaching coaches, parents and health care providers, but we still have a long way to go to help our athletes understand just how serious this injury can be. They are living in the moment and see themselves as invincible. It’s up to us, the adults, to lead the charge in crafting a safe sports culture here in our community. Our athletes will thrive when the have fun playing their sport; receive positive messages and praise for reporting concussion symptoms; have parents who talk with them about concussion and model and expect safe play; and have coaches and teammates that support them sitting out if they are hurt. We need to turn up the volume on this discussion with our kids. Mum is no longer the word!