Varsity athletes' concussion beliefs: A driving factor to prevention?


Concussion prevention programs aim to reduce concussion incidence by increasing knowledge and awareness about the injury, though reductions in the context of sport have been limited. Many of these efforts have been directed towards influencing athlete beliefs of concussion injury to encourage the use of protective behaviours. Little is know about athletes' beliefs about concussion and how those beliefs might affect protective behaviours. The Common Sense Model (CSM) of Illness Representation suggests that stimuli, such as education or experiences regarding an injury, influence an individual’s danger and fear representations of the injury. These perceptions relate to the likelihood the individual enacting coping or protective behaviours. This cross-sectional survey of 100 varsity athletes (55% male; mean age 20; 61% involved in contact sports; 63% history of concussion) used the CSM to examine beliefs (control, timeline, consequence, emotions) about concussion injury along with competitive drive and how they influence attitudes and intentions towards protective behaviours. Women expressed greater fear and anxiety towards concussion than men. Athletes educated about concussion believed that concussion injury could have long-term effects versus non-educated athletes. Athletes’ belief about the cyclical nature of concussion, the social consequences of the injury, and the efficacy of medical treatment were positively related to protective behaviour attitudes accounting for 10 percent of the variance. None were unique predictors of attitudes. Only emotional associations uniquely predicted protective behaviour intention accounting for 13 percent of the variance. Attitudes accounted for 10 percent of the variance in behavioural intention. Emotion plays a significant role in protective behaviour intention but cognitive representations play a limited role. Research and practice should consider factors other than danger beliefs in prevention efforts.