Skip to Content

​Concussions Misunderstood and Feared by Most Americans, according to Harris study

For Journalists

Rick Pietzak
Project Director, Crisis Communications

Susan Manko
Vice President

Want to Make an Appointment or Need Patient Information?
Contact UPMC at


Go to Find a Doctor to search for a UPMC doctor.


Main Content
PITTSBURGH, Oct. 1, 2015 – A survey of U.S. adults found that the vast majority do not know the definition of a concussion and many do not know the injury is treatable. The national survey of 2,012 Americans age 18 and over was conducted in April by Harris Poll on behalf of UPMC. The survey further showed that, despite a lack of knowledge and understanding, there is a high level of concern and even fear across the country.
• A fear of concussions may be impacting parents’ decisions to let their kids play contact sports 
o 9 in 10 (89 percent) adults believe concussions are a moderate to severe health concern
o About 1 in 3 (32 percent) of parents live in fear that their child will get a concussion
o 1 in 4 (25 percent) of parents do not let their kids play some contact sports because of fear of concussion
o 2 in 5 (41 percent) adults feel that getting a concussion is a “living nightmare” 
• Many Americans (57 percent) have personal experience with concussions 
o About 1 in 4 (26 percent) adults did not see a health care professional when someone in their family had one  
• The vast majority of adults can’t correctly define a concussion 
o Roughly 9 in 10 (87 percent) Americans do not know the definition of a concussion
o 2 in 5 (37 percent) adults admit that they are confused about what a concussion truly is 
• There are varying degrees of knowledge when it comes to understanding the symptoms of concussion 
o Slightly fewer than 3 in 5 adults can correctly identify immediate symptoms of a concussion: headache (58 percent), dizziness/motion sensitivity (58 percent), and cognitive difficulty (55 percent)
o Far fewer—roughly 1 in 3 or less—understand that the following also are symptoms: fatigue (34 percent) and changes in mood (13 percent)  
• The majority of Americans do not realize that concussions are treatable 
o Barely 1 in 4 (29 percent) of Americans believe that all concussions can be treated
o 79 percent of adults incorrectly believe or are unsure that there is no real way to cure a concussion; the symptoms can only be lessened
o About 4 in 5 (81 percent) Americans aren’t comfortable that they would know the steps to manage or treat a concussion if they sustained one 
• The majority of Americans (83 percent) feel that major progress has been made in the past 10 years in assessing and treating concussions 
o Only 1 in 2 (49 percent) adults know that a person does not need to stay awake for 24 hours after sustaining a concussion
o 8 in 10 (83 percent) adults believe people generally do not take concussions seriously enough 
• Only 1 in 4 (25 percent) Americans understand that safety equipment—such as helmets or mouth guards—cannot prevent the majority of all concussions, as scientific research shows
• Less than 1 in 5 (16 percent) adults believe there are no best practices to treat concussions
“This survey highlights the myths about concussion and the need for education. The reality is that we have made tremendous progress in the diagnosis, management and rehabilitation of this injury.” said Micky Collins, Ph.D., executive and clinical director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program. “The study results are cause for concern because, given these advances, parents should not be living in fear. Sports can be an integral part in a child’s physical and social development. As clinicians and scientists, we need to disseminate more accurate information,” added Dr. Collins.
“We see this injury all day long and we also see that with proper management, kids recover and return to play. With careful evaluation and treatment by a well-trained specialist, even the most complex injuries are manageable,” said Erin Reynolds, Psy.D., fellowship director of UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.
This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of UPMC between April 16 to 23, 2015 among 2,012 U.S. adults age 18 or older, 948 of whom are parents. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Deana Percassi, Harris Poll, 585-214-7212.
Nation’s Top Concussion Experts Will Meet at UPMC Oct. 15-16
At an unprecedented event at UPMC on Oct. 15 and 16, nearly 30 leading, independent concussion clinicians and researchers from around the United States will convene in Pittsburgh for the Targeted Evaluation and Active Management (TEAM) Approaches to Treating Concussion meeting. The meeting will conclude with a press conference featuring several experts who will propose standard guidelines on the best practices, protocols and active therapies for treating concussions today. The participants will develop a white paper to be published in the medical journal Neurosurgery. For more information and to view the survey results, visit