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From Angus Reid Institute

Risks & realities of contact sports: Most say Hamlin injury an ‘unfortunate part of the game’

One-in-nine sports fans (11%) say they’re watching less because of serious injuries in contact sports

January 13, 2023 – The Buffalo Bills will have an easier time preparing for their playoff matchup this weekend – at least mentally – now knowing that teammate and rookie safety Damar Hamlin has been released from hospital after suffering a terrifying injury on January 2. The Bills take on the Miami Dolphins, a team that will be without their own quarterback Tua Tagovailoa after he suffered his third concussion of the season in a game played on Christmas Day.

These injuries highlight the tension between the love of contact sports and the extent to which Canadians deem serious risk of injury necessary to play them. A new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds Canadian sports fans battling these competing realities.

Asked specifically about the incident involving Hamlin, seven per cent of viewers were affected to the point that they are more likely to tune out from contact sports in the future. One-in-three (34%) were upset by the incident but will continue watching, while three-in-five (58%) say that it didn’t affect them personally and is “just an unfortunate part of the game.”

This latest catastrophic injury adds to a growing awareness of the risks of contact sports. In recent years, discussions of traumatic brain injury have grown immensely, leading leagues to introduce new protocols for diagnosing and treating these injuries. The unavoidability of concussions in sports appears to be weighing on many fans, even if it isn’t causing them to tune out entirely.

Overall, 11 per cent say they watch less contact sports – where there is a perceived increased risk of brain injury – than they used to. Further, fully half (53%) say they think about the concussion risks more often now when they watch sports like football and hockey. One-in-three (36%) say this is not something they really think about when they watch sports.

Does this sort of incident (Hamlin injury) change how you feel about watching contact sports? (Among Canadians who follow any pro sports, n=1,190)

More Key Findings

Hamlin

Four-in-five (83%) Canadians say they were following the injury to Damar Hamlin in the days following the incident (Jan. 2 to Jan. 5).

Emotional Effects

Close to half of those who follow the NFL very closely or closely say they were emotionally affected by the injury. Approximately five per cent in each group say they are less likely to watch football in the future, while the rest say the injury didn’t affect them personally.

Contact Sports

One-in-nine sports fans (11%) say they were already watching fewer contact sports like hockey and football than they used to because of the risk of traumatic brain injury

Too Risky?

More than four-in-five sports fans (84%) say they would play football for $5 million a year, at least for a couple of years, if they had the talent and opportunity. Approaching one-in-five (16%) say it is too risky, even with that multimillion-dollar payout

Survey Methodology

The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from January 3 – 4, 2023 among a representative randomized sample of 1,515 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI. Detailed tables are found at the end of this release.

For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.

For detailed results by NFL and CFL viewership, click here.

To read the full report, including detailed tables and methodology, click here. 

To read the questionnaire in English and French, click here.

Image – Dave Adamson

Angus Reid Institute logo

From the Angus Reid Institute, Canada’s non-profit foundation committed to independent research.

For detailed breakdown of the results, visit angusreid.org

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