Janice Stapley, Monmouth University – Female Student Athletes and Concussions

How do we protect athletes from concussions?

Janice Stapley, associate professor of psychology at Monmouth University, look at safety for female Division 1 athletes.

I am an Applied Developmental Psychologist with research experience in Emotional Intelligence and Emotion Regulation and the developmental periods of Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood. I do mixed methods research and have expertise in running Focus Groups, Survey Research, and Research Ethics. I am on the Institutional Research Board for Human Participants Research at Monmouth University. Current interests include Emotion Regulation in College students and the application of Developmental Psychology to Human Resources issues.

Female Student Athletes and Concussions

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Public discussion of the devastating effects of multiple concussions among athletes has highlighted the critical need for enhanced protections against this injury and careful treatment of it.

So, we started with the question:  if there is so much information out there now about the dangerous long term effects of concussion, why does it seem that collegiate athletes are still relatively cavalier about them?

In order to understand the thinking of student athletes, we conducted interviews with 18 female NCAA Division I athletes from a variety of sports to get their take on the topic within the student-athlete culture.

We believe their responses can be best understood through three different lenses.  Through a developmental lens, we understand their position because they are still late adolescents or emerging adults who have not completed their higher order problem solving brain development and tend to be optimistic, self-focused and present focused.

Through a gender lens, female athletes may be at a high risk of concussion since they often feel that they have to both prove themselves as serious athletes and perform femininity such as worrying about how their hair looks while competing!

Lastly, as members of the culture of sport, athletes do not want to lose the opportunity to complete a game, especially if it is a championship game, because they will miss out and also don’t want to let their teammates down.

Three takeaway suggestions for those who want to protect athletes:  1. Protective gear has to be mandatory or they won’t use it.  2. Training has to be very specific to their sport or they will not think it applies to them, and  3.  the best incentive for their cooperation with following concussion protocol is that doing so will minimize missed play time!

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