A new study conducted by the McGill University Health Centre finds athletes today are much more aware of the dangers of concussions – but most are still playing through a suspected brain injury.
The researchers examined 454 Canadian Football League players during the 2015-2016 season. Their findings revealed that about a quarter of those players strongly believed they had suffered a concussion, but 80 per cent of them chose not to seek medical attention. Only 20 per cent diligently reported the concussion to the medical staff on their team when it happened and only 6 per cent sought out medical attention after the game.
Researchers found athletes are more knowledgeable about the symptoms, the dangers, and treatment for concussions, but tend to disregard that information when they get injured.
Dr. J. Scott Delaney of the McGill Sport Medicine Clinic co-authored the study, which was published in this month’s Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine.
He believes fear of letting the team down and thinking the injury wasn't serious enough to be a danger to their health are key reasons for under-reporting.
Delaney said a similar study with university athletes produced the same results.
"This is not a problem isolated to CFL players, as we have seen almost identical behaviour in male and female university athletes. What we have to figure out now is how we get athletes to change their behaviour when routine concussion education may not be enough," he said.
Trenton Miller, the former quarterback for the Concordia Stingers, suffered a concussion last year whle playing against Laval University. It was the seventh concussion of his career.
"Concussions are not like a broken arm, where you can just know what it is," he said. "There's a lot of reasons why people don't report it."
Delaney said it’s important for athletes to know that they are much more at risk for a potentially much more damaging second or third concussion if they play through the first one.
“We try to make the athletes understand that we know perhaps you’re not happy you’ve had a concussion and we’re going to pull you out of the game, but we’re doing that for your own health,” he said. “It’s better to treat this concussion now, because this will probably take less time than if you continue to play and hide your symptoms and suffer another concussion, because that other concussion could take much longer, and keep you out of sports and participation even longer.”
Athletes, coaches and medical staff at McGill now sign a ‘concussion contract’ that includes information about concussions in the hopes that everyone will be more forthcoming about injuries and eliminate the stigma.