Concussion prevention: Conflicting attitudes and intentions towards protective behaviours among athletes


Concussion prevention programs aim to reduce concussion incidence and severity by increasing knowledge and awareness about the injury and influencing attitudes and intentions towards protective behaviours. We examined concussion beliefs, attitudes and intentions towards protective behaviour in a cross-sectional survey of 100 varsity athletes (55% male; mean age 20; 61% involved in contact sports; 63% history of concussion, 89% received concussion education). Participants were reasonably accurate in identifying concussion symptoms, generally agreed that concussions had significant personal and social consequences, and effects that could be enduring. Nonetheless, most (57%) were not fearful about experiencing a concussion and, as far as consequences go, concussion was rated as comparable to an anterior cruciate injury. Almost all (93%) believed protective equipment would reduce the risk of concussion but many (66%) indicated they felt safer taking risks when wearing protective equipment. Almost all (95%) indicated that waiting the specified time for recovery was important to avoid further injury, but 76 percent agreed that athletes conceal concussion injury to avoid being taken out of play and 41 percent indicated they would or may conceal concussion injury to return to play. A majority (58%) indicated they would risk suffering a concussion and almost a quarter (23%) indicated they would inflict a concussion on a fellow athlete to succeed in a sport that mattered to them. Stated behavioural intentions modify their contact exposure or style of play to reduce concussion risk. While athlete representation of concussion is largely consistent with the portrayal of injury in prevention programs and the media, much latent contradiction remains in attitudes and intentions towards protective behaviours. Future research and prevention efforts should consider these contradictions and related influences.