The effect of brain injury terminology on university athletes' expected outcome from injury, familiarity and actual symptom report

Brain Inj. 2010;24(11):1364-71. doi: 10.3109/02699052.2010.507110.


Primary objective: To determine the influence of the terms concussion, mild traumatic brain injury and minor head injury on expected injury outcome, term-related familiarity and actual symptom reporting.

Research design: A questionnaire varied the terms concussion, mild traumatic brain injury and minor head injury.

Methods and procedures: Two hundred and twenty-four university students were allocated one questionnaire version. Participants rated injury outcome statements for their truthfulness, specified term familiarity and completed measures on post-concussion symptoms, anxiety, depression, pain and affectivity. Chi-square tests compared response frequencies of statement ratings and familiarity between questionnaire versions and a rank-based multivariate method compared psychological measures between questionnaire versions.

Main outcomes and results: Terminology significantly influenced both expected injury outcome and familiarity. Outcome expectations were reliably more negative for the term mild traumatic brain injury than concussion or minor head injury. Mild traumatic brain injury was the least familiar term. However, terminology groups did not differ in actual symptom reporting.

Conclusions: The data showed that the use of terminology affected athletes' injury outcome expectations and familiarity. The impact of the data and advice for the best term for future use are discussed. While it is not easy to make a clear recommendation, the data clearly indicate a strong need for education of brain injury at university level and possibly beyond.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / psychology*
  • Brain Concussion / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Education
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Terminology as Topic*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Universities
  • Young Adult