A Concussion by Any Other Name: Differences in Willingness to Take Risks by Label and Participation in Sports


brain injury, concussion, decision making, risk familiarity, risk taking, sports psychology

Document Type



One factor in reducing the likelihood of sports-related brain injuries is the recognition of risks. However, using colloquial terms may deemphasize the severity of these risks. We hypothesized that using colloquial language to describe sports-related brain injuries will lead to greater willingness to take on the risk. We conducted two experiments, varying the label describing an injury (getting your bell rung, concussion, or brain injury) and assessing willingness of current athletes, former athletes, and nonathletes to accept this risk as part of sports participation. High-school and college athletes were willing to expose themselves to a high probability of risk, compared with nonathletes, when described colloquially. However, risk thresholds were low and indistinguishable across groups when using the term “brain injury.” Findings remained significant when controlling for knowledge, age, and sensation seeking. These differences indicate that the term “getting your bell rung” should not be used to describe a brain injury.

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