Concussion Awareness and Self-Reporting

February 27, 2020

Over the past few years, an increase in concussion awareness has led to multiple changes in not only rules and regulations but also in people’s attitudes towards concussions.

“All the media coverage makes kids much more aware,” McHenry said. “You only have one brain and I think people are starting to realize that.”

As Joshua Perry, Husaln Abdullah, and other NFL players quit due to worries of permanent brain damage, and new studies have come out to show the danger of concussions, these injuries have become a controversial topic in the news. 

“We have been aware of these injuries for a long time. There have been good guidelines for quite some time, but the public has definitely taken more of an interest in it and players are taking more of an interest as well,” Peterson said.

This new perception of concussions takes them more seriously. As athletes and coaches are better informed about both the dangers and signs of concussions, they are able to identify them faster and more consistently. It has also become more common for players to come forward when they think that their teammate might have a concussion.

“When I first started [as an athletic trainer] 22 years ago, it was more common for kids to lie, and say they didn’t have any symptoms and if they acted well enough no one could tell and so then they stayed in the game,”  McHenry said. “With all the changes, I would say probably 95 percent of the time, a kid self-reports [at City High].”

22 years ago, it was more common for kids to lie, and say they didn’t have any symptoms. If they acted well enough, no one could tell and they stayed in the game.

— McHenry

Peterson has noticed a similar change with his work with the Hawkeye football team. He described how it used to be rare for an athlete to self-report, but that it has been becoming more common in recent years. Most of the concussions he diagnoses are noticed during a game or practice.

“I would say still, most of the time someone gets hit in a way that it catches your attention and it causes you to look at them closely, rather than having them come out of the game and having them report their own injury, but it happens sometimes,” Peterson said.

There is no guideline for the number of concussions an athlete can get before they can no longer continue their sport. Peterson explained that this is because each injury and each athlete is different.

“We want to treat each one of these injuries as they come,” Peterson said. “We want to encourage people to tell us when they are injured. We want people to report their symptoms. We don’t want people to lie.”

Peterson worries that having a specific threshold for the number of concussions allowed would deter athletes who are close to the threshold from accurately portraying their symptoms, making them hide the severity of their injury.

“Imagine if you’re an athlete in a sport where there was a three strike kind of rule and you had two concussions and you know if you get another one that you’ll never get to play your favorite sport again,” Peterson said. “That’s a pretty strong disincentive to tell [anyone] about that next injury. We really want the athletes to tell us about the injury.”

In recent years, concussion rates have been increasing, but Peterson does not think that this means that the number of concussions are increasing.

“[Concussions] are probably just as likely in sports as they have ever been but I do think that we are doing a better job of identifying them now,” Peterson said. “So if you look at concussion rates, it looks like the rates are up. But that’s probably not because sports have gotten more dangerous or more violent. It’s probably because we are doing a better job of identifying these injuries when they do happen.”


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