Two new studies recently published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine co-authored by Dr. J. Scott Delaney, a team physician for the Montreal Alouettes, Montreal Impact, and McGill football and soccer, shed light on the most common form of head injury seen in athletes. They suggest that concussions continue to be a “hidden injury” in sports, even in the face significant increased public awareness.
Minimizing and concealing concussion symptoms
“People have suspected for a long time that concussions are under reported by athletes. We examined how often this actually occurs and the reasons why athletes choose to hide their concussions,” says Dr. Delaney, who is also a sports medicine specialist and research director in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and an associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University.
According to Dr. Delaney’s research, which involved the surveying of 469 university athletes over a 12-month period, 20% of university athletes believed they had suffered a concussion during this time and almost 80% of these concussed athletes decided not to seek medical attention and chose to continue playing despite believing they had suffered a concussion.
“The athletes’ most common explanation was that they did not feel their concussion was serious,” explains Dr. Delaney. “They believed it would not be dangerous to continue to play or practice. Most athletes know what should happen when they get a concussion — they will be taken out of the game. However, they are not always aware that a concussion, if not recognized and treated, can be extremely dangerous.” Athletes who play or practice while they have symptoms of concussion are at risk of far more serious injury, including repeated concussions. This can lead to cumulative neurological damage and even, in the long term, cognitive impairment and depression.