College football players underestimate concussion, injury risks

Research suggests that college football players underestimate their risk for injury or concussion. File Photo by AJ Sisco/UPI
Research suggests that college football players underestimate their risk for injury or concussion. File Photo by AJ Sisco/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 29 (UPI) -- It's broadly understood that football is an inherently dangerous sport, but not everyone perceives risk the same way -- and sometimes, perception doesn't match reality.

New research suggests college football players regularly underestimate their risk of injury or concussion.


The study findings, published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Network Open, could have ethical and legal implications, as well as influence discussions about the health and safety of student athletes.

For the study, researchers interviewed 296 college football players from four teams, all members of one of the NCAA's Power Five conferences. Players were asked a variety of questions crafted to illuminate their perception of injury risk.

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Researchers compared their responses to the predictions of a model designed to simulate injury and concussion risks based on real data.

The analysis revealed between 43 and 91 percent of players underestimated their risk of injury. Additionally, Between 42 and 63 percent underestimated their risk of concussion.

Authors of the new study -- including Christine Baugh, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine -- acknowledged that most people underestimate risk.


At the same time, Baugh and company suggest the potential cost of underestimating injury and concussion risk is greater for football players.

"That athletes underestimated their risk of concussion and injury in this study raises important ethical considerations," researchers wrote in the paper. "What is the threshold for college athletes to be sufficiently informed of the risks and benefits of football to make decisions that align with their values and preferences?"

While the experience of playing a dangerous sport may not help football players accurately assess their risk of injury, the experience of getting injured can influence a player's risk of getting injured again.

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Previous studies have found that football players who get a concussion are at an increased risk of suffering a lower extremity or core injury. They're also at an increased risk of suffering another concussion.

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