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Media honesty and consistency could help prevent TBIs in sports

Researchers are sharing their results of a study regarding the North American media's coverage of traumatic brain injuries in hockey over time. The study wanted to find themes within the U.S. and Canadian reports about sports brain injuries and evaluate whether the media's take on the matter impacts the overall population's stance on sports injuries.

Many people now have opinions and fears regarding traumatic brain injuries in sports. With the NFL brain injury lawsuits and safety concerns over young athletes, the risk of concussions and how to prevent them is a common theme of conversation. According to researchers, however, the conversation could be misguided based on media's portrayal of the safety matter.

The researchers scanned a few of the top media outlets for stories about hockey TBIs and came up with themes about how the issue was framed within news pieces. A basic breakdown of how North American media has presented the issue over time suggests that reports might not have done much to prevent head injuries from continuing within sports.

Based on the discovered story themes, readers would believe that aggression and fights in hockey are celebrated and expected aspects of the sport. They would believe that safety devices such as helmets are significant preventers of TBI (when they often, according to researchers, fill athletes with a dangerous sense of "invincibility.") They would also believe, "Sports are sports. Accidents will happen."

The above perceptions are dangerous to the proper awareness and prevention of TBIs in all sports. Those NFL players who were injured and are suing the league are doing so based on the argument that the league misled the players about the risk of concussions. If this study and the ex-NFL plaintiffs' allegations are true, the media might also be contributing to the dangers of head injuries in sports.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Is the media to blame for the brain injuries of hockey players?" Karen Kaplan, April 17, 2013

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