John Murray, Suzanne Ali and Michael HattenGrad students John Murray, left, Suzanne Ali and Michael Hatten conducted research to learn more about how varsity football players' knowledge and attitudes about concussions influenced their behaviour.

Football players may disregard concussion consequences, student researchers find

Despite being aware of the long-term consequences of concussions, some football players are willing to continue participating because they’re able to rationalize putting their sport ahead of themselves.

Those were among the findings of a trio of first-year masters students in kinesiology who presented their work yesterday, the final day for their research methods course.

Suzanne Ali, Michael Hatten and John Murray interviewed 10 Canadian varsity football players – four of whom had previously been diagnosed with concussions – to learn more about their knowledge about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of concussions, as well as their attitudes about the problem, which affects almost four million athletes every year in the U.S.

They found that many football players are actually over committed to the “sport ethic,” a governing attitude which is characterized by making personal sacrifices for the game, refusing to accept limitations, and accepting risk while playing through pain.

“They have a strong identity with being a football player,” said Ali. “When you have such a strong identity factor, anything that might challenge that can cause negative feelings.”

Ali spoke of one student who said that football was the most important part of his life and attributed his success on the field to “not playing safe.”

While they acknowledged their sample was a relatively small one, the students said they hope their research can contribute to a more positive culture where athletes can talk openly about concussions and their consequences.

“We need to make them feel comfortable about discussing their symptoms,” said Murray.

The trio was part of a group of students presenting their work in a class taught by sport management professor Jules Woolf.

Other projects included research on how Chinese students can become acculturated in Canada through participating in sports and attending sporting events, and one on what can be done to help ease the transition from high school to university for first-year student athletes.

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