Using the Disclosure Decision-Making Model to Understand High School Football Players’ Disclosures of Concussion Symptoms

in International Journal of Sport Communication
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Despite advancements in concussion treatment and management, health and sports professionals largely depend on athletes’ self-reporting of symptoms to begin the process of diagnosis. With this in mind, recent scholarly attention has focused on understanding the barriers and processes of athletes’ self-disclosure of symptoms. The current study applied the disclosure decision-making model to understand high school football players’ disclosure decisions after experiencing symptoms of a concussion. Data obtained from 184 high school football players from across the United States demonstrated 2 significant paths by which players’ disclosures of concussion symptoms during a game can be understood. First, the perceived severity of these symptoms predicted athletes’ self-efficacy to disclose concussions, which subsequently predicted their intentions to disclose concussion symptoms during a game. Second, the felt stigma around disclosing concussion symptoms predicted athletes’ anticipated responses from coaches to such disclosures, which subsequently predicted their intentions to disclose concussion symptoms during a game. Furthermore, the effect of perceived stigma on the anticipated responses from coaches was moderated by the quality of athletes’ relationships with their coaches. These results highlight the importance of convincing athletes to take concussion symptoms seriously and the role of athlete–coach relationships in combatting stigma around concussion disclosures. These findings suggest that scholars and practitioners should acknowledge the social contexts surrounding disclosure of concussion symptom and shift educational efforts to focus on the dangers of concussions and the process by which athletes should report potential symptoms.

Cranmer is with the Dept. of Communication, Clemson University, Clemson, SC. LaBelle is with the Dept. of Communication Studies, Chapman University, Orange, CA.

Cranmer (gcranme@Clemson.edu) is corresponding author.
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