The incidence of sports-related concussions occurring within the USA has been estimated to be approximately 300,000 per year. The preponderance of credible experimental and clinical evidence pertaining to the adverse effects of concussion indicates that the brain is injured as a result of a concussion. Yet concussions are often discounted as being insignificant by athletes, trainers, coaches, and physicians.
A six question survey was designed to assess active and retired National Football League members' fundamental knowledge of concussions. This investigation is the first study designed to assess NFL players' knowledge of concussions. An analysis of the findings revealed that many NFL players lack accurate and essential knowledge pertaining to various aspects of a concussion.
Given the players' apparent lack of knowledge, it is reasonable to assume that these athletes may have sustained concussions without recognizing that they experienced a brain injury. The complex, varying and individualized central nervous system response to brain insult and resultant concussion injury not only justifies, but requires a comprehensive assessment from a readily available and qualified multidisciplinary team of health-care providers. This justification is based on the potential pervasive cognitive, emotional and physical impairments which can result from sustaining a concussion. Furthermore, sports team health-care personnel need to focus primarily on the athletes' health and well-being, and not minimize an injury or primarily concentrate on the players' capacity to perform on the field. This expanded focus is necessary in order to avoid any real or perceived conflicts of interest emerging in the concussion management and related return to play decision-making process.
As the field of sports related concussions is in its infancy, it would seem reasonable for the field to develop clear and comprehensive conflict of interest policies pertaining to not only concussion management, but also to research. Recommendations for multidisciplinary educational approaches pertaining to the adverse implications and effects of concussions, and future research, are also offered. These recommendations are suggested to foster trust in athlete health care and sports related concussion research from athletes and the general public, and to allow athletes the proactive ability to make informed choices regarding their injury and corresponding health.