Why Do Sports Concussions Go Unreported

The dangers of concussions have received national and international attention. There are many reasons that affect the reporting of sports injuries, especially concussions. The most common reason sports concussions go unreported, is that the injured player simply did not think he or she was seriously hurt. Coaches and parents may also fail to recognize the seriousness, or potential seriousness, of an injury.

Failure to recognize injury and/or failing to understand the potential for serious consequences requires more vigorous efforts to educate athletes, coaches, teachers, parents and other family members, and friends on the subjects. But lack of knowledge is certainly not the only reason for failure to report injuries. Here is a summary of some common reasons that athletic injuries are not reported:

Recognition:  Those who excel at sports, particularly prominent sports during the school year, often receive special recognition at school and in college. Athletes are often popular leaders who receive particular attention from peers, teachers, professors, and others. An injury or condition that could limit or even prevent them from playing sports is viewed as a disaster to be avoided.


Finances:  Those who excel at sports may hope to receive athletic scholarships to prestigious universities. They may also hope to reap the financial benefits bestowed on some professional athletes. Young athletes (as well as professional athletes) may not want to risk what they believe to be an impressive financial future by admitting that they have been injured.


Fear of Failure:  Athletes may perceive that anything that prevents them from participating in their sports renders them susceptible to failure. Failure to achieve recognition, failure to achieve scholarships or other financial rewards, failure to help his/her team excel, and failure to meet the expectations of family and friends are all types of failure that make athletes reluctant to acknowledge injuries or other health problems.


Promotion of School and Family:  Athletics can be a big source of recognition in high school and a source of financial gain and recruitment for universities. Athletes may feel, or be pressured to feel, that their sports performance is of significant importance to their schools and universities.


Parental, Coach, and Peer Pressure:  Parents, coaches, and peers may place significant pressure on athletes to succeed. Parents may have been successful athletes themselves and expect their children to be equally successful. Or they may have longed to excel at sports but were not able to do so.


Thus they want their children to succeed where they did not. Parents may also enjoy the attention they get from being the parents of the “stars” on various teams. Coaches, whose jobs depend on the successful performance of their athletes, may wittingly or unwittingly, drive their players to perform.


It is not uncommon to hear coaches (as well as parents and peers) tell athletes to “walk it off” when an injury occurs. Peers also pressure athletes to perform. They want their school and university teams to win. Winning is highly prized in society!


Need to win at all costs:  As previously mentioned, winning is important to athletes, parents, coaches, and fans! Anyone who has attended a sporting event has witnessed the enthusiasm of fans as they root for their respective teams.

Sometimes this enthusiasm takes the form of negative comments and even fights with fans of the opposing teams. These kinds of behaviors can be seen even among fans of the very young athletes. Such behaviors seem to become worse as the children age and the “need” to win becomes more intense.


Although some of the preceding reasons may seem petty compared to the potential for serious injury, life-long effects, or even death, the persons whose behaviors contribute to failure to report may not even be aware of their impact. It is unlikely that parents, fans, and coaches, would deliberately risk an athlete’s life and well-being. However, because of the reasons, whether they are financial, the need for prestige, the need for recognition, or the need to win, rational behavior is sometimes compromised.

Nurses, coaches and parents, can all help our young athletes stay in the game by looking for the signs of a concussion. School is in session and sports physicals are at peak, followed closely by (unfortunately) sports injuries.


Download “how to spot the signs of a concussion” and use it as a talking point or as a hand out when chatting with parents about their children’s athletic ambitions for the year.

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