How often did we – or do we, even – hear broadcasters praise an athlete’s unparalleled ‘bravery’ for staying on the pitch following a collision? Or gloss over an incident as if it never actually happened? Or astoundingly, frantically mock players for missing a game because they were genuinely concerned for their health?
Those aren’t rhetorical questions, and the answer is far too often.
Now, that’s not to say that poor reporting is intentional. Or by extension, entirely the broadcaster’s fault, particularly given that a lot of the research is new, and journalists aren’t scientists.
The fact of the matter is that, until recently, there was an obvious disconnect between the science behind sports concussions and the way the subject is reported in the media. Luckily, the Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF) are on a mission to solve that problem through vital education.
Brandon Boyd, CLF’s Education Content Manager, said: “In the first three years of the CLF Media Project, we’ve made tremendous strides improving the quality of our curriculum and in demonstrating our ability to collaborate with sports media and journalism professionals.”
A big part of that project is the Concussion Reporting Workshop, a stand-alone course that accentuates why good concussion reporting matters and explains how the media has helped change the concussion culture over the last decade.
Having developed a fantastic reputation amongst schools in the US, the CLF have now delivered their media training in the UK for the first time to sports journalist students at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. Their timing couldn’t have been more perfect, as MPs listened to testimony from the FA, World Rugby, Peter Crouch and more, on CTE, the very same day.
Associate Professor and Course Leader in Sport Journalism at St Mary’s, Dr Daragh Minogue, said: “I was really keen to invite the CLF to work with my students because it’s vital that trainee sports journalists understand the seriousness and complexities of concussion.
“We are the first journalism programme in the UK to offer their media training, but it won’t be long before this workshop gains a much wider audience across British universities.”
Mr. Boyd was worried about how UK students would react to an American attempting to discuss players, teams and sports he wasn’t entirely familiar with. Yet he left the session encouraged by the future of the Media Project outside of the US because of the remarkable level of student engagement.
By compiling clips involving journalists, commentators and pundits, discussing concussion, CLF showed just how much work needs to be done to ensure the issue is reported on accurately and with sensitivity. That level of effort clearly left a mark on the students, as Xander Chevallier’s tweet later highlighted.
Most important three hours of my journalism career learning about the responsibility of the media when discussing and reporting on concussion and other brain injuries
Huge thanks to the @ConcussionLF for such an engaging and important workshop
— Xander Chevallier (@Xander_Chev) March 23, 2021
However, Dr Minogue and his students weren’t the only ones thankful for what they had learnt.
During the workshop, former Wales and Wasps rugby player, Nic Evans, who is also the current programme Director of Physical Education, Sport and Youth Development at St Mary’s, spoke about her own experience of concussion, which further emphasised why this training is so vital.
Meanwhile, Head of Journalism Training at Sky Sports News, Laurie Tucker, who was also in attendance, said: “It’s vital that journalists’ understanding of concussions in sport keeps pace with the advances in medical science which, alongside the powerful testimony of the men, women, and their families, who’ve been impacted by brain injuries caused by playing sport, have driven this issue high up the news agenda.”
“The CLF has an important role to play in educating journalists and trainees in this area.”
CLF has already begun work on that role, and plan to provide shorter, more sport-specific workshop presentations to sports media professionals within the next year. That being said, they’re still mindful of the fact there’s a long way to go before they achieve their mission, and thus, rid of the dated concussion culture for good.
Featured image courtesy of the Concussion Legacy Foundation.