Fans’ perception and understanding of American professional tackle football, concussions, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Danielle Christina Funk (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Jennifer Etnier

Abstract: Due to potentially dangerous consequences, the American public has become concerned with concussions in American tackle football. Scientists have identified repeated concussions as a potential contributor to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive neurodegenerative disease related to negative health changes, premature death, and suicide (Omalu et al., 2005; Omalu et al., 2006; Omalu et al., 2010). In response to growing concerns about the risk of concussion, the NFL has established a comprehensive set of protocols related to diagnosis, management, and ongoing education of NFL personnel and players (Play Smart, Play Safe, 2017). This improvement in the NFL Concussion Diagnosis and Management Protocol highlights the NFL’s efforts to improve the safety of NFL players and reduce the number of head injuries associated with playing in the NFL. Because the concussion issue has garnered public attention, it is important to understand public perceptions and knowledge on concussions, CTE, and the NFL. This is the first study evaluating these topics within the general public and fan populations. Therefore, objectives of this study were to (1) describe the current NFL fans’ perceptions and understanding of concussions, CTE, and the NFL response to CTE, and (2) assess fans’ opinions regarding concussion topics. The primary hypothesis was that participants with direct current or former experience (i.e., current or former player, current or former coach, current or former medical team member) would score higher on the concussion knowledge portion of the questionnaire as compared to participants with fan experience only (i.e., current or former fan with no playing, coaching, or medical team experience). The secondary hypothesis was that coaches would score lower on the perceptions section of concussion and CTE (i.e., believe that concussions are not significant or dangerous) than current or former players. Participants were recruited primarily via online modalities resulting in 232 participants being sampled for this study and 206 participants meeting inclusion criteria for data analysis. All participants completed an online, anonymous questionnaire including participant demographics and perceptions and knowledge of the topic areas. Overall, results from this study revealed differences in perception and knowledge between different subgroups of individuals familiar with American tackle football. Interestingly, results of this study showed that direct experience had opposing effects when analyzing current or former coaches and players, as current or former coaches had increased understanding and more positive perceptions of rules for concussions and CTE compared to current or former players. This indicates that, while players are provided education materials, players may not be retaining or implementing the information in the education materials in their idea of American tackle football and the NFL.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
American professional tackle football, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), Concussions, Fans, National Football League (NFL), Perceptions
Tackling (Football) $x Health aspects
Football players $x Health and hygiene
Brain $x Wounds and injuries $x Complications
Brain $x Concussion $x Complications
Football injuries $x Public opinion
Football fans $x Attitudes

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