Objective: Sport participation promotes health benefits for children. Current media and scientific coverage of sport-related head injury may influence a parent's decision on sports participation. Physicians must understand what influences these decisions to effectively counsel patients and families. This study sought to better understand and quantify the parental decisions to allow/disallow collision sports, including football participation.
Methods: A 31-question survey related to child/parent demographics, sports history, and influences to allow/disallow sport participation was available to parents in the United States through a national volunteer registry, between November 2016 and September 2019. Pearson's chi-squared and Wilcoxon's signed-rank test were used to analyze categorical and continuous variables, respectively. Multivariate logistic regression was performed to identify the most powerful factors associated with the decision.
Results: Of the 884 responses, 430 (49%) parents would disallow collision sport participation and 334 (38%) would disallow football. Parents who would allow collision sports more commonly cited child desire, while those parents who would disallow cited safety concern as the greatest influence to generally disallow a sport. Those who would disallow reported doctors (35.1% vs 25.3%; P = 0.002), media (12.8% vs 7.3%; P = 0.006) and other parents (11.2% vs 7.3%; P = 0.045) as influences. A child's age (OR 1.039, 95%CI 1.007-1.073; P = 0.018) was independently associated with their parent responding that they would allow collision sports. Parent educational status showed that those with higher than a bachelor's degree would be less likely to allow football participation (OR 0.635, 95%CI 0.443-0.910; P = 0.013).
Conclusions: Parents incorporate many sources of information into the decision to allow or disallow their child to participate in collision sports. A child's desire to play a sport and child safety are driving factors for parents faced with the decision of whether to allow participation in collision sports. Physician input is more frequently influential to parents than the media, underscoring the responsibility of physicians to engage families on the risks, benefits, and resources available for sport participation.
Keywords: Collision sports; concussion; contact sports; parenting; sport-related concussion.