College football players may underestimate their risk of injury and concussion. This raises important ethical considerations, according to a study published recently in JAMA Network Open.

In the study, researchers led by Christine Baugh, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and member of the CU Center for Bioethics and Humanities, report on survey results of 296 college football players from four teams in the Power 5 Conferences of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Athletes were surveyed in 2017.

Per the study results, between 43% and 91% of respondents underestimated their risk of injury, and between 42% and 63% underestimated their risk of concussion, a media release from University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus reports.

Estimates vs Perceptions

To measure the accuracy of football players’ risk estimations, the researchers modeled individual athletes’ probabilities of sustaining a concussion or injury and compared model estimates to athlete perceptions.

While recognizing that many people underestimate health risks, the authors point out that the risks college football athletes face may be more severe or debilitating than those faced by many in the general population. Given this elevated risk profile, they say it is concerning that athletes tend to underestimate the likelihood of these risks.

These results raise questions about informed consent and how much risk should be acceptable in the context of a game, the release continues.

“That athletes underestimated their risk of concussion and injury in this study raises important ethical considerations. 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?”

— Christine Baugh, PhD, MPH, and colleagues

[Source(s): University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, EurekAlert]

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