College football players may underestimate their risk of injury and concussion, according to a recent study out of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
The researchers surveyed 296 college football players from four teams in the Power 5 conferences of the NCAA — SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12 and Pac-12. Athletes were surveyed in 2017. The researchers found that 43% and 91% of respondents underestimated their risk of injury and 42% and 63% underestimated their risk of concussion.
“That athletes underestimated their risk of concussion and injury in this study raises important ethical considerations,” wrote Christine Baugh, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and member of the CU Center for Bioethics and Humanities. “What is the threshold for college athletes to be sufficiently informed of the risks and benefits of football to make decisions that align with their values and preferences?”
To measure the accuracy of the players’ risk estimations, the researchers modeled individual athletes’ probabilities of sustaining a concussion or injury and compared those model estimates to the athletes’ perceptions.
Many people underestimate health risks, the authors wrote, but the risks college football athletes face “may be more severe or debilitating than those faced by many in the general population.”
The researchers say it is concerning that athletes tend to underestimate their risks, because it raises questions about informed consent and how much risk should be acceptable in the context of a game, Baugh and her co-authors wrote.
The study was published in JAMA Network Open.