Young Athletes Not Worried About Concussions

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD

Oct. 22, 2012 -- Despite a media blitz, most high school football players are not concerned about the consequences of a concussion.

A new study shows fear of losing valuable playing time keeps many high school football players from telling a coach or parent about symptoms of a concussion.

Researchers found 32% of high school football players said they had concussion-like symptoms, such as headaches, confusion, or vomiting, over the last two years, but did not seek medical attention. Of these, more than half said they didn't report it due to fear of being excluded from play.

In recent years, the National Football League as well other professional sports leagues have launched media campaigns to bring more attention to the long-term consequences of concussions in football and other sports.

But researchers found this increased publicity has had little impact on high school football players' attitudes about concussions.

"Overall, the study showed that while the growing media attention has increased the awareness of high school athletes, there has been only a marginal change in student athlete behaviors and concerns for possible health consequences," says researcher Michael Israel, MD, of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

"Interestingly, 85% of respondents noted that they received a majority of their concussion knowledge from their coach or trainer, while less than 10% obtained information from media outlets including TV, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet," says Israel.

Concussion Consequences Ignored

In the study, researchers confidentially surveyed 134 high school football players about their awareness and attitudes about concussions. The results were presented today at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans.

The results suggest that although awareness of concussions is growing among teens, most are not worried about the consequences of concussions.

For example, more than half of athletes said they knew more about symptoms of concussions then they did before they entered high school. But only 38% said they were concerned about the long-term effects of concussions.

Long-term complications of concussions may include lifelong thinking and memory problems or brain disease.

A related study presented at the same conference suggests that involving athletic trainers may be needed to increase reporting of concussions in high school sports.

Researchers found concussions among high school female athletes were more likely to be diagnosed in schools with athletic trainers.

"Athletic trainers have a skill set that is very valuable, especially now when there is such a focus on concussions and related treatment and care," says researcher Cynthia LaBella, MD, of Northwestern University. "Concussed athletes are more likely to be identified in schools with athletic trainers and thus more likely to receive proper treatment."

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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SOURCES: American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition, Oct. 20-23, 2010, New Orleans. News release, American Academy of Pediatrics. WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise: "Concussion - Overview." WebMD Health News: "Study: Overweight Ex-Football Players Put Brain at Risk."

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