Research Topic

Concussion and Sport: A Sociocultural Perspective

About this Research Topic

Concussion in sport has developed from what C. Wright Mills would call a ‘private trouble’ to a ‘public issue’. Responses to this major public health crisis include governmental inquiries, legal prosecutions, and rule changes fundamentally affecting the way some sports are played. Concerns about concussion have spread from elite to recreational sport, from contact to non-contact sports, and across the globe. Fueling these concerns is the currently uncertain link between the often-short term and spontaneously resolving symptoms of concussion, and the potential for longer-term neurodegenerative decline evident amongst former athletes and, in particular, the condition known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Concussion in sport has become a deeply polarized and polarizing issue with some arguing that change has not been rapid or radical enough, and others seeing their sports, and their most cherished ways of life, as subject to an existential threat.

Current research is heavily dominated by biomedical science, in which primary areas of interest include enhancing the accuracy of diagnosis and assessment, charting the short- and longer-term effects on different populations, and optimizing rehabilitation strategies. Biomedical scientists have led the design and implementation of concussion education and awareness programmes. While significant advances have been made, our understanding of concussion remains far from complete, and to date, interventions have been relatively ineffectual in addressing either the personal experience or the public health issue.

Moreover, as concerns over concussion have become more widespread, the narrowness of existing approaches has become more problematic. The resolution of the public health crisis around concussion arguably lies as much in its social, ethical and management dimensions as it does in medical developments. Public understanding is shaped by media representation, athlete behavior is shaped by sport cultures, and medical treatment for concussion invokes distinct ethical challenges around consent and patient autonomy. In policy and planning terms concussion is a ‘wicked problem’ – complex, difficult to define and continuously evolving.

This Research Topic seeks contributions from across the humanities and the social and behavioural sciences to expand our understanding of concussion in sport. This multidisciplinary approach is essential to establishing more effective resolutions of this public health issue and ameliorating the personal experiences of this unique sporting injury.

We welcome submissions which draw upon communication studies, ethics, governance, history, legal perspectives, management, policy, public health, and sociology. Research may be informed by both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. We particularly seek contributions from across the global academic community, focusing on various sporting practices and diverse populations, to shape the emerging cross-cultural analysis of concussion in sport as a public health issue.

Potential topics include:
• Sports subcultures and the development of context-specific perceptions of concussion
• Athletes’ experiences of concussion, especially the longitudinal and holistic impact of injury
• The development of public understandings of concussion and the social dimensions of medical advances
• The role of the media in amplifying/de-amplifying the public health crisis around concussion
• International and national sport governing body responses to concussion, particularly in relation to regulation and policy development
• Critical evaluations of concussion prevention programmes
• The development of the concussion public health crisis, locating this specific sport-related health crisis in broader socio-historical context.
• The distinct ethical issues that arise from regulating and managing brain injury in sport
• The social factors affecting the development of medical research into concussion and related conditions.


Keywords: Brain Injury, Concussion, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, Sport


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Concussion in sport has developed from what C. Wright Mills would call a ‘private trouble’ to a ‘public issue’. Responses to this major public health crisis include governmental inquiries, legal prosecutions, and rule changes fundamentally affecting the way some sports are played. Concerns about concussion have spread from elite to recreational sport, from contact to non-contact sports, and across the globe. Fueling these concerns is the currently uncertain link between the often-short term and spontaneously resolving symptoms of concussion, and the potential for longer-term neurodegenerative decline evident amongst former athletes and, in particular, the condition known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Concussion in sport has become a deeply polarized and polarizing issue with some arguing that change has not been rapid or radical enough, and others seeing their sports, and their most cherished ways of life, as subject to an existential threat.

Current research is heavily dominated by biomedical science, in which primary areas of interest include enhancing the accuracy of diagnosis and assessment, charting the short- and longer-term effects on different populations, and optimizing rehabilitation strategies. Biomedical scientists have led the design and implementation of concussion education and awareness programmes. While significant advances have been made, our understanding of concussion remains far from complete, and to date, interventions have been relatively ineffectual in addressing either the personal experience or the public health issue.

Moreover, as concerns over concussion have become more widespread, the narrowness of existing approaches has become more problematic. The resolution of the public health crisis around concussion arguably lies as much in its social, ethical and management dimensions as it does in medical developments. Public understanding is shaped by media representation, athlete behavior is shaped by sport cultures, and medical treatment for concussion invokes distinct ethical challenges around consent and patient autonomy. In policy and planning terms concussion is a ‘wicked problem’ – complex, difficult to define and continuously evolving.

This Research Topic seeks contributions from across the humanities and the social and behavioural sciences to expand our understanding of concussion in sport. This multidisciplinary approach is essential to establishing more effective resolutions of this public health issue and ameliorating the personal experiences of this unique sporting injury.

We welcome submissions which draw upon communication studies, ethics, governance, history, legal perspectives, management, policy, public health, and sociology. Research may be informed by both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. We particularly seek contributions from across the global academic community, focusing on various sporting practices and diverse populations, to shape the emerging cross-cultural analysis of concussion in sport as a public health issue.

Potential topics include:
• Sports subcultures and the development of context-specific perceptions of concussion
• Athletes’ experiences of concussion, especially the longitudinal and holistic impact of injury
• The development of public understandings of concussion and the social dimensions of medical advances
• The role of the media in amplifying/de-amplifying the public health crisis around concussion
• International and national sport governing body responses to concussion, particularly in relation to regulation and policy development
• Critical evaluations of concussion prevention programmes
• The development of the concussion public health crisis, locating this specific sport-related health crisis in broader socio-historical context.
• The distinct ethical issues that arise from regulating and managing brain injury in sport
• The social factors affecting the development of medical research into concussion and related conditions.


Keywords: Brain Injury, Concussion, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, Sport


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

29 January 2021 Manuscript
15 March 2021 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

29 January 2021 Manuscript
15 March 2021 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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