One of the biggest issues for sports teams is the failure to report injuries, especially if they aren’t physically debilitating. This is a big problem as we find out just how common traumatic brain injuries are for athletes.
Reporting possible TBI means being pulled from a game, and possibly practice, for longer than most athletes like. Most don’t understand that putting themselves back into play can have serious and permanent consequences.
So how big is the trend to not report injuries? According to the Huffington Post Canada, it is worse than you likely expected. A recent study followed players on two Canadian university level hockey teams for a season, and they found the incidence of concussions was three times higher than reported in males, and shockingly five times higher for females.
It’s not just the players either. The report of the study also details issues with coaching staff sending players back to the ice faster than health professionals advise. One player was put back into a game just one period after an injury, and afterwords reported feeling “iffy,” “off,” and slightly dizzy.
Another physician reported “I had negative feedback from the coach who thought that the study was a waste of money … he didn’t want his players to get assessed in fear that they would be declared as concussed and advised not to play … the players didn’t want to be declared as concussed since it would limit their playing time.”
These issues are deep in the psyche of athletes and coaching staff, and an intervention is greatly needed. One of the coaches resisting advice given during the study had her own career cut short due to brain injuries, yet still did not want to limit her players’ time on the ice. “I find that the players and coaches often downplay the symptoms in an effort to get the athlete back into action,” said one physician-observer. “I think it relates to the culture of hockey.
Putting players back into danger immediately after a brain injury can have permanent consequences, and could even lead to an early death. Something has to be done to protect the lives of these athletes. Glory on the ice is great, but I think most of the athletes want to be healthy enough to at least enjoy their success.