Adolescent athletes’ social perspectives following a sport-related concussion

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Abstract

Objective

To explore adolescent athletes’ social perspectives regarding sport and concussion.

Design

Qualitative inquiry.

Setting

Individual in-person interviews.

Participants

12 interscholastic athletes (4 females, 8 males; age=15.7±1.7 years; grade level=10.2±1.4; sports=football, soccer, volleyball, basketball, and wrestling) were interviewed.

Outcome measures

A semi-structured interview protocol was used. Interviews focused on injury details, and explored the physical, psychosocial, emotional, and spiritual components of sport and health. Themes and categories were identified based on the consensus process by a three-person research team. A comprehensive codebook that captured the main themes and categories resulted.

Results

Following concussion, participants discussed two primary themes: perceptions regarding the social aspects of sport and social perspectives regarding their concussion. Specific categories related to the social aspects of sport included friendships and family and decision to participate based on peers. Specific categories regarding the social perspectives of the concussion included: uncertainty of the diagnosis, perceptions of others regarding their injury, being ashamed of the concussion, parent and peer roles, and communication and expectation about their concussion.

Conclusions

Participation in sport and removal from sport following a concussion have significant social implications for adolescent athletes. Specifically, the perceptions of peers, parents, and others regarding the injury can influence reporting of symptoms and recovery following concussion. Limited communication regarding recovery and expectations post-concussion may cause undue social pressures to return to activity prematurely. Anticipatory guidance, with education regarding the possible signs and symptoms, risk factors pre- and post-injury, and recovery expectations following a concussion are important to include in post-injury management.

Competing interests

Funded from a grant from the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.

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