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Hard-hitting Data on Concussions Suffered in Sports

October 15, 2010

NEW YORK, Oct. 15 /PRNewswire/ — There has been increasing attention paid lately to the topic of concussions. As more tragedies are examined and possible links to concussions found, our knowledge of a once seemingly understood medical occurrence continues to evolve. As this happens, there is a reassessment of common practices, including those in an often cited culprit of concussions–the beloved American sport of football.

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These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,620 adults surveyed online between September 14 and 20, 2010 by Harris Interactive.

While a majority of Americans say they follow professional football (53%) and even more say they like it (62%), when read several statements about the sport as it may relate to concussions, strong majorities indicate that various changes should be made, not only to the equipment used, but also to the way the sport is played and officiated.

Just over eight in ten Americans agree that the risks of playing football are widely known and players participate at their own risk (83%), but Americans don’t seem to think that this understanding precludes aspects of the game from being updated, which could make it safer for all who choose to play.

Over eight in ten Americans say that helmets should be changed to better protect against concussions (83%). Although that seems like an easy change to make, other suggested changes which could affect the game more dramatically were equally embraced. Eight in ten Americans also say that players who suffer a head injury should be required to take a minimum set amount of time off from playing to recover (83%) and that there should be a standardized test used to determine if and when injured players at all levels may return to the field (79%). Interestingly, strong majorities also feel that aggressive tackles which are more prone to leading to head injuries should be restricted in youth football (79%), and, while fewer Americans agree, over half still say that there should be penalties for players who cause head injuries to others, such as suspension (58%).

AMERICANS’ VIEWS ON FOOTBALL-RELATED CONCUSSIONS

    Base: All U.S. adults
                                       Agree (NET)
                                       %
    Players who suffer a head injury
     should be required to take a
     minimum set amount of time off
     from playing to recover                      83
    The risks of playing football are
     widely known and players
     participate at their own risk                83
    Helmets should be changed to
     better protect against
     concussions                                  83
    Aggressive tackles which are more
     prone to leading to head
     injuries should be restricted in
     youth football                               79
    There should be a standardized
     test used to determine if and
     when injured players at all
     levels may return to the field               79
    -------------------------------              ---
    There should be penalties for
     players who cause head injuries
     to others, such as suspension                58
    --------------------------------             ---

While it’s clear that strong majorities of Americans favor all of these possible changes, generational differences can still be seen, with older Americans agreeing with the proposed changes even more broadly than younger Americans do. For example, just three-quarters of Echo Boomers, aged 18-33 years, say that helmets should be changed to better protect against concussions (76%), players should be required to take time off to recover after head injuries (74%) and aggressive tackles should be restricted in youth football (73%), while higher percentages of all other generations say these things, including nine in ten Matures, aged 65 and older, who agree on all three counts. The only statement that shows consistent opinions across all generations is that the risks of playing football are widely known and players participate at their own risk; four in five in each generation say this. Although men follow and like football more than women do, there are no real gender differences in how men and women feel about these possible changes to football, in light of increasing understanding about concussions.

So What?

As doctors and scientists continue to research what happens to the human brain following a concussion, it’s possible that Americans may also continue to rethink some of their favorite pastimes, including football. While only initial data and observations are currently being presented, these already seem to suggest that concussions, or other head traumas common to athletes in certain sports, can cause damage to brain tissue which can lead to physical disability, lowered impulse control, severe depression and ultimately, dementia. Between researchers now reexamining Lou Gehrig’s physical demise and suggesting that he may have suffered from the result of multiple serious concussions, rather than the horrific disease which bears his name, and many football players not only becoming physically handicapped but also emotionally distressed and suicidal, –including a particularly tragic college suicide last Spring–the understanding and treatment of concussions is being re-examined, and from this poll, it seems clear the American public may not be opposed to a critical look at the sport of football, as well.

                                    TABLE 1
                                  CONCUSSIONS
       "Recently there has been more discussion that repeated concussions
       suffered in sports can potentially lead to long term brain damage
      and disability later in life.  Thinking about this, how much do you
               agree or disagree with the following statements?"

    Base: All U.S. adults
                                                                          Not
                                                                           at
                       Agree Strongly Somewhat Disagree Somewhat Strongly all
                       (NET)  agree    agree    (NET)   disagree disagree sure
                        %       %        %        %        %        %      %
    Players who suffer
     a head injury
     should be
     required to take
     a minimum set
     amount of time
     off from playing
     to recover           83       59       24        7        5        2   10
    The risks of
     playing football
     are widely known
     and players
     participate at
     their own risk       83       51       31        9        6        3    8
    Helmets should be
     changed to better
     protect against
     concussions          83       61       22        6        4        2   11
    Aggressive tackles
     which are more
     prone to leading
     to head injuries
     should be
     restricted in
     youth football       79       55       25       11        7        5    9
    There should be a
     standardized test
     used to determine
     if and when
     injured players
     at all levels may
     return to the
     field                79       54       25        9        6        3   12
    ------------------   ---      ---      ---      ---      ---      ---  ---
    There should be
     penalties for
     players who cause
     head injuries to
     others, such as
     suspension           58       31       27       29       20        9   13
    ------------------   ---      ---      ---      ---      ---      ---  ---

                                   TABLE 2
                    CONCUSSIONS - By Generation and Gender
      "Recently there has been more discussion that repeated concussions
      suffered in sports can potentially lead to long term brain damage
     and disability later in life.  Thinking about this, how much do you
              agree or disagree with the following statements?"

         Summary of those saying "strongly agree" or "somewhat agree"
    Base: All U.S. adults
                        Total            Generation                  Gender
                                Echo              Baby
                              Boomers Gen. X    Boomers Matures
                              (18-33) (34-45)   (46-64)  (65+)  Male   Female
                          %      %       %         %       %      %       %
    Players who suffer
     a head injury
     should be required
     to take a minimum
     set amount of time
     off from playing
     to recover            83      74      83        86      90    82       83
    Aggressive tackles
     which are more
     prone to leading
     to head injuries
     should be
     restricted in
     youth football        79      73      80        80      89    78       81
    There should be
     penalties for
     players who cause
     head injuries to
     others, such as
     suspension            58      52      55        57      74    56       60
    The risks of
     playing football
     are widely known
     and players
     participate at
     their own risk        83      81      84        83      81    87       78
    Helmets should be
     changed to better
     protect against
     concussions           83      76      83        85      89    83       82
    ------------------    ---     ---     ---       ---     ---   ---      ---
    There should be a
     standardized test
     used to determine
     if and when
     injured players at
     all levels may
     return to the
     field                 79      72      79        82      86    80       78
    -------------------   ---     ---     ---       ---     ---   ---      ---

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between September 14 to 20, 2010 among 2,620 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

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The Harris Poll(®) #121, October 15, 2010

By Samantha Braverman, Project Researcher, The Harris Poll, Harris Interactive

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

SOURCE Harris Interactive


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