Teenage athletes not reporting injuries, study shows

Posted at 9:54 PM, Oct 28, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-28 23:54:50-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- When it comes to staying in the game teenage players don't usually want to tell coaches they're hurt. A new survey by health experts shows it’s not just their coach they’re not telling, they’re not telling anyone about it.

This new data from the Utah Department of Health Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that 35.9 percent of high school athletes are showing symptoms of a concussion, but for fear of losing playing time they're not telling anyone.

High school athletes spend hours and hours perfecting their sport. Their whole objective is to get in the game, to be a starter in the game.  But in sports like football, soccer and lacrosse players and even parents know that concussions are always a possibility.

“You know, he got dinged or he`s going to see butterflies or he got his bell rung, those are things commonly associated with football,” said Ron Roskos with the Brain Injury Association of Utah.

Back in the day if a player got hurt a coach would probably ask the student if they were OK and send them back in.

Players don't argue because they want to play. Keith Lopati knows that from personal experience. He was a running back at the University of Hawaii and had a lot of helmet to helmet collisions.

“You do not want to lose playing time anytime you get hurt; the possibility of losing playing time is pretty good,” said Lopati, West High School head football coach. “So as players, we’re going keep it to ourselves for the most part so we don`t lose our job.”

Lopati said he’s had more than a dozen concussions.  As a player he kept on playing, but now that he's a coach, he has a different attitude.

“As a coach safety is our first priority,” he said. “They`re not always going to tell us if they`re dinged up or have headaches or things like that.  It`s almost like we have to observe them a little closer than we used to do.”

New information from a study by the Utah Department of Health shows that more than a third of high school athletes who played sports and had symptoms of a concussion and never told anyone.

“Parents need to talk to their young athletes. You need to tell me if something is off, or you just don`t feel normal,” said Jenny Johnson with the Injury Prevention Program.

On top of that, parents and coaches can watch out for the signs and even let student athletes know what they are.

“They may be suffering from headaches or memory loss; they may be struggling with their schoolwork,”

Johnson said.

Schools and coaches are pretty in tune with keeping an eye on a player that's suffered a head injury in a game but they don't see everything.  So it is so important that athletes talk to their parents about their health.

On a related note, Utah law requires that a child who gets a head injury must be removed from play and may return only after getting a written clearance from a qualified health care provider.