We know that many athletes often hide the fact they suffered a concussion. That behavior isn’t unique to professional athletes, but it is a worrisome trend at the high school and college levels too. They might worry about losing their starting positions on the team. They might fear that the team will suffer if they come out of the game. They might not even realize that the injury was serious and needed medical attention. Young athletes must realize that hiding a concussion risks a more serious injury.

Not reporting a concussion and duration of recovery

Breton M. Cohen, MS, ATC and other researchers published a study in the Journal of Athletic Training that analyzed athletes at the University of Florida who suffered sport-related concussions between 2008 and 2015. They wanted to determine the effect on athletes from delayed reporting of a brain injury with subsequently delayed removal from competition.

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Hiding a concussion risks a longer recovery

The authors placed athletes who suffered concussion into two categories – immediate removal from activity and delayed removal from activity. The athletes in the second group did not report having symptoms. No doctor or athletic trainer identified them as having a concussion at the time of the event.

Missed days from sports when not reporting a concussion

The researchers found that athletes who were not removed from the practice or game have longer recoveries from the concussions. They missed an average of five days more than the athletes who immediately reported their symptoms.

That five-day period of prolonged recovery might not seem like much, but that time can represent one or several games, depending on the sport the concussed athlete plays. It can also mean many more missed classes and tests in school.

The need for more concussion education

It’s clear that we still have a long way to go to encourage athletes to report symptoms instead of hiding a concussion. In fact, 51.5% of the college athletes in this study did not initially report symptoms. We need more education about the risks of hiding possible concussions. Maybe knowing that their symptoms could last longer might encourage athletes to report head injuries.

Also read:
Sports medicine stats: Bone and joint injuries shortly after a concussion
Sports medicine stats: Concussions in college sports

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Plus, athletes and coaches could actually view this information favorably. If athletes do report symptoms, yes they will likely miss the rest of that game and a few more days. But they will return to play at full strength and ability faster than hiding a concussion.

Asken BM, McCrea MA, Clugston JR, Snyder AR, Houck ZM, Bauer RM. “Playing Through It”: Delayed Reporting and Removal From Athletic Activity After Concussion Predicts Prolonged Recovery. J Athl Train. 2016 Apr 25.