Concussions and Risk Within Cultural Contexts of Play

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Concussions are a type of traumatic injury caused by a jolting of the brain that disrupts normal brain function, and multiple concussions can lead to serious long-term health consequences. In this article, we examine the relationship between college students’ understanding of concussions and their willingness to continue playing despite the possibility of sustaining multiple head injuries. We use a mixed-methods approach that includes participant observation, cultural domain analysis, and structured interviews. Our research finds that students hold a robust cognitive understanding of concussion yet discursively frame concussions as skeletomuscular injuries. More importantly, students affirm the importance of playing sports for themselves and others, so their decisions to risk multiple concussions must be understood within cultural and biocultural contexts of meaningful social play. We suggest that peoples’ decision to risk multiple head injuries should be understood as a desire for meaningful social play rather than an uninformed health risk.

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