A Risky Business: Relationships Between Perceived Risk of Concussion and Protective Behaviours in Varsity Athletes


All sports maintain some level of risk of injury. For contact sports, the risk of concussion is guaranteed to be elevated. Athletes’ perception of this risk motivates their adherence to protective health behaviours on and off the pitch. Prior research indicates that athlete estimates of likelihood and severity are central driving factors in commitment to behaviours, the strength of these variables and the associated moderating variables are still unclear. Our goal was to examine these cognitive components of perceived risk and the intent to execute the appropriate health behaviours per the Common-Sense Model of Illness Representation presented by Diefenbach and Leventhal (1996). We predicted that higher estimates of severity and likelihood would lead to greater, more positive intentions and adherence to health behaviours. We also hypothesized that optimism bias would be a moderating variable for estimating direct likelihood and intentions toward health behaviours. Finally, we hypothesized that prior concussion experience would play a role in higher levels of protective behaviours. Data were analyzed using a series of regression analyses and a mixed x between effects analysis of variance on data collected for two prior studies (N = 315, 57% male) using standard measures of risk representation. Results indicated that common components of risk might not motivate intent or behaviour relating to concussions. Additionally, the impact of optimism bias was minimal. Our results highlight the need for further research into the motivating factors behind health intentions and behaviours beyond the current understanding of risk appraisal.