With increasing scrutiny of sport-related concussions by the media, it might seem surprising that an athlete would deny having concussion symptoms in order to stay in the game. With some of the long-term dangers from repeated concussions, you would think that players would want to minimize their risk of serious brain injury.
Yet, we continue to hear reports of professional and college athletes who say they don’t tell their coaches or the medical staffs that they have symptoms. Studies even show that athletes in a variety of high school sports and activities, like football, soccer and even cheerleading, hide concussion symptoms.
A survey of high school football and girls’ soccer players found that 69% of the injured athletes played despite having concussion symptoms. 40% said that their coaches were not aware of their symptoms, and many athletes didn’t tell their parents about the injuries either.
Similarly, another survey of high school football players found that one quarter of the athletes had experienced a concussion. Half said they would keep playing while having concussion symptoms.
There are probably many factors responsible for these athletes denying concussion symptoms. Athletes of all ages and skill levels seem to deny having concussion symptoms. Maybe it’s the fear of losing their positions on the teams. It could be the pressure to win. It could even result from pressure placed on kids from parents and coaches.
It doesn’t really matter why athletes deny concussions. We need to change this behavior. Professional athletes need to set a better example for the young athletes who dream of one day joining them. And parents and coaches need to encourage kids to speak up.
Brain injuries can be very serious if an athlete takes a hit when his brain has not completely returned to normal. But athletic trainers and team doctors often can’t pull an athlete out of a game and evaluate him unless the player admits to having symptoms.
Traumatic brain injuries in sports are serious, and it’s time all athletes understand just how serious they are and tell someone when they get hurt.