Many young athletes think it is okay to play with a concussion, even though they know it puts them at risk of serious harm, according to a new U.S. study.

The research was conducted by a team from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and is set to be presented Monday, May 6, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Washington, DC.

A total of 120 high school football players in the Cincinnati area were involved in the investigation. Twenty-five percent of the participants had experienced a concussion and over 50% admitted that they would keep playing with symptoms of a concussion.

“These attitudes could leave young athletes vulnerable to injury from sports-related concussions,” explained co-author Brit Anderson, MD, pediatric emergency medicine fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Two surveys were given to the volunteers that looked at their understanding of concussions and symptoms as well as their opinion about playing after a head injury. The scientists discovered that 70% of the subjects had been taught about concussions, and the majority could recognize typical signs and symptoms.

The following signs/symptoms were recognized by the players:

  • Headache was identified by 93%
  • Dizziness by 89%
  • Having a hard time remembering and sensitivity to light and sound by 78%
  • Having a hard time concentrating by 76%
  • Feeling in a fog by 53%

Although 91% of the students understood that if they returned to play too soon, they would be at risk of serious injury, only 50% would always or occasionally tell their coach about their concussion symptoms.

Dr. Anderson said:

“Despite their knowledge, many athletes in our sample reported that they would not tell their coach about symptoms and would continue to play. A small percentage even responded that athletes have a responsibility to play in important games with a concussion.”

No link was identified between a player’s knowledge score and attitude score on the questionnaires, according to the experts.

Dr. Anderson concluded:

“In other words, athletes who had more knowledge about concussions were not more likely to report symptoms. Although further study needs to be done, it is possible that concussion education alone may not be enough to promote safe concussion behaviors in high school football players.”

Earlier this year, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) launched a new App, called “Concussion Quick Check”, to help athletes, parents, trainers, and coaches quickly determine whether a person has a concussion and needs to see a doctor.

The AAN released its new guideline for evaluating and managing athletes with concussion in March of this year.

The new guideline recommends:

  • Immediate action – any player with suspected concussion must be taken out of the game right away
  • See a specialist – that athlete should not be allowed to return until an examination has been performed by a licensed health care professional trained in concussion
  • A gradual return to play – return to play should be done slowly, and only after acute symptoms have completely gone away
  • Kids and adolescents – athletes up to high school age with a concussion “should be managed more conservatively” regarding when they be allowed to return to the game. According to existing data, this age group takes longer to recover than older players

Written by Sarah Glynn