Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Higher Education Administration

Major Professor

J. Patrick Biddix

Committee Members

Mary Lynne Derrington, Dorian L. McCoy, Robin Hardin


Sports-related concussions are a major public health concern affecting a significant number of collegiate student-athletes. Medical and public health research has addressed every aspect of concussion management processes including concussion education, medical diagnosis, recovery, and returning to sport and classroom. This research has led to several best-practices for concussion management. Since 2010, the NCAA has mandated that its member institutions maintain concussion management policies and procedures. However, the current recommendations, based primarily on medical research, have been found in quantitative studies of the behaviors and practices of athletic trainers, coaches, and student-athletes to be ineffective. To date, no studies have explored the perceptions and experiences of student-athletes post-concussion. The purpose of this study was to understand student-athletes’ experiences post-concussion and how their experiences compared to concussion management policy. A qualitative research design was utilized to allow for an in-depth understanding of the student-athlete’s perspective on concussion management. Data were collected from interviews with seven current and former NCAA student-athletes from five member institutions representing Division I football, lacrosse, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, Division II football, and Division III football; and from publicly obtained concussion management documents. The data were analyzed using Tesch’s (2013) organizing system and Love's (2003) methods for document analysis. Eight major findings emerged from the data: 1) Symptomology and its effects, 2) Pressure to return, 3) Lack of Knowledge, 4) Inadequate support, 5) No rest, 6) No policy, 7) Double-injury, and 8) Inconsistent alignment between student-athletes’ experiences and their institution’s concussion policies. None of the student-athletes’ experiences aligned with the current best-practices in concussion management. Recommendations for cultural change, NCAA practices, and higher education practices include using warning messaging and PSAs, applying effective preseason education, enforcing implementation of concussion management guidelines, leveraging media partnerships, investing in concussion specialists, and creating a team of support.

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