The head or the heart: Emotions and cognitions influence on concussion prevention and management behaviors


Concussions are a common athletic injury. Considerable research, time, and resources have been dedicated to developing educational resources to encourage athletes to engage in concussion prevention and management behaviors. Much of the messaging is based on fear appeals of the consequences of concussion injury, yet the relationship between cognitive and emotional representations of concussion injury and the enactment of protective behaviours is unclear. Our aim was to investigate the dual-process relationship of cognitive components and emotional components of risk representation on concussion protective behaviors. We use regression and mediation analysis of two surveys of varsity athletes (N1 = 175, N2 = 142) utilizing standardized measures of injury representations and a novel imagery measure. Cognitive representations including perceived effects and control over concussion injury returned as significant predictors of protective intentions and behaviours. Emotional representations of injury did not significantly predict behaviour and did not mediate the relationship between cognitions and intentions. Imagery measures still showed strong negative affect connected to concussion injury. From this study we see that emotions are a component of concussion injury, but their role in prompting behaviour is unclear. We should consider the best methods to capture emotional representation around injury for future studies.