Are American parents too afraid of concussions?
A survey of US adults suggests the vast majority don’t know the definition of a concussion and many don’t know the injury is treatable.
The national survey of 2,012 Americans age 18 and over was conducted online in April by Harris Poll on behalf of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The survey results show that, despite a lack of knowledge and understanding, there is a high level of concern and even fear across the country.
A fear of concussions may affect parents’ decisions to let their kids play contact sports:
- 9 in 10 (89 percent) adults believe concussions are a moderate to severe health concern
- About 1 in 3 (32 percent) of parents live in fear that their child will get a concussion
- 1 in 4 (25 percent) of parents do not let their kids play some contact sports because of fear of concussion
- 2 in 5 (41 percent) adults feel that getting a concussion is a “living nightmare”
Many Americans (57 percent) have personal experience with concussions:
- About 1 in 4 (26 percent) adults did not see a health care professional when someone in their family had one
The vast majority of adults can’t correctly define a concussion:
- Roughly 9 in 10 (87 percent) Americans do not know the definition of a concussion
- 2 in 5 (37 percent) adults admit that they are confused about what a concussion truly is
There are varying degrees of knowledge when it comes to understanding the symptoms of concussion:
- Slightly fewer than 3 in 5 adults can correctly identify immediate symptoms of a concussion: headache (58 percent), dizziness/motion sensitivity (58 percent), and cognitive difficulty (55 percent)
- Far fewer—roughly 1 in 3 or less—understand that the following also are symptoms: fatigue (34 percent) and changes in mood (13 percent)
The majority of Americans do not realize that concussions are treatable:
- Roughly 1 in 4 (29 percent) of Americans believe that all concussions can be treated
- 79 percent of adults incorrectly believe or are unsure that there is no real way to cure a concussion; the symptoms can only be lessened
- About 4 in 5 (81 percent) Americans aren’t comfortable that they would know the steps to manage or treat a concussion if they sustained one
The majority of Americans (83 percent) feel that major progress has been made in the past 10 years in assessing and treating concussions:
- Only 1 in 2 (49 percent) adults know that a person does not need to stay awake for 24 hours after sustaining a concussion
- 8 in 10 (83 percent) adults believe people generally do not take concussions seriously enough
- Only 1 in 4 (25 percent) Americans understand that safety equipment—such as helmets or mouth guards—cannot prevent the majority of all concussions, as scientific research shows
Less than 1 in 5 (16 percent) adults believe there are no best practices to treat concussions
“This survey highlights the myths about concussion and the need for education. The reality is that we have made tremendous progress in the diagnosis, management and rehabilitation of this injury,” says Micky Collins, executive and clinical director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.
“The study results are cause for concern because, given these advances, parents should not be living in fear. Sports can be an integral part in a child’s physical and social development. As clinicians and scientists, we need to disseminate more accurate information.”
“We see this injury all day long and we also see that with proper management, kids recover and return to play. With careful evaluation and treatment by a well-trained specialist, even the most complex injuries are manageable,” says Erin Reynolds, fellowship director of UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.
This survey took place online within the United States between April 16 to 23, 2015 among 2,012 US adults age 18 or older, 948 of whom are parents.
This text is published here under a Creative Commons License.
Author: Susan Manko-University of Pittsburgh
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