SUMMARY

Many athletes involved in contact sports hide or ignore concussions for fear that it makes them look weak. Researchers, the U.S. military and the NFL are all working to clear up this misperception—and encourage people with injuries to get the help they need.

Why There’s a Stigma About Concussions

NFL players and members of the U.S. military have this in common: they might not be open with teammates or fellow soldiers about suffering a concussion, and they might even try to hide it or ignore it.

The same is likely true for younger athletes in contact sports.

“A concussion can represent a threat to your status, a threat to your identity as part of an elite group,” Julianne Schmidt, an assistant professor in the University of Georgia’s College of Education, told “UGA Today” last spring.

Schmidt and other colleagues are working on ways to help athletes seek help after they’ve had a concussion. “We are showing people it’s OK to have injuries treated and make yourself stronger,” she said.

‘There Is No Shame in Getting Help’

Former NFL great Herschel Walker had a similar story for an audience last year at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia.

He told the Navy News Service: “There is no shame in getting help. I did.”

Collaborating with the U.S. Military

The NFL, the U.S. military and the United Service Organizations, Inc. (USO), are also working on reducing the stigma around head injuries.

Commissioner Roger Goodell has met with senior military leadership to discuss a collaborative program.

A handful of NFL coaches have also met with military leadership at the Pentagon.

“I look at the football field, the grid iron, the same way I look at a combat zone,” says Army Staff Sergeant Shawn Hibbard in this 2012 video.

“The player or the service member doesn’t want to come out,” he says. “The player or the military service member doesn’t want to come out—we want to be there for our battle buddies.”

This initiative between the NFL and the U.S. military has fostered peer-to-peer conversations to reduce the stigma that may be associated with reporting brain injuries.

It has also raised awareness about the value of self-reporting injuries.