Researching & Contrasting Concussion Non-Disclosure in Military Pilots & Athletes

Research Paper Title

Pilots and athletes: Different concerns, similar concussion non-disclosure.


Concussion non-disclosure research has focused almost exclusively on athletes. The focus on athletic populations has been sensible considering athletes’ demonstrated susceptibility to sustaining and concealing concussions. Nevertheless, the habitual use of athletic populations has allowed researchers and practitioners to omit the development of generalized perceived costs and perceived rewards as critical determinants of concussion self-disclosure.

The researchers hypothesised that perceiving concussion disclosure as generally more costly than rewarding would predict negative attitudes towards disclosure and decreased intent to disclose. They also hypothesised that generalised perceived costs and rewards could explain concussion non-disclosure in different populations, athletes and future pilots specifically, even when those populations perceive concussion self-disclosure as costly for different specific reasons.


The researchers examined concussion disclosure using 2,504 cadets at the United States Air Force Academy.

Cadets completed anonymous surveys assessing their intention to self-disclose undiagnosed concussions (Anticipated Concussion Disclosure) as well as several variables potentially related to concussion self-disclosure:

  • Perceived cost;
  • Perceived reward;
  • Personal identity;
  • Attitudes;
  • Normative behaviour;
  • Social support; and
  • Self-efficacy.


The results demonstrate that concussion non-disclosure develops when a population perceives disclosure as more costly (i.e. directly or emotionally) and less rewarding.

Perceived Cost and Perceived Reward variables alone accounted for 50% of the variance in Anticipated Conclusion Disclosure (Adjusted R2 = 0.50, F(2,2312) = 1,145.31, p < 0.001). As expected, Anticipated Conclusion Disclosure developed for different reasons within different sub-populations.

Consistent with existing research, cadet intercollegiate athletes reported being primarily concerned that concussion self-disclosure would cause them to miss practice or game time (t (736.7) = 14.20, p < .001, Cohen’s d = 0.96).

In contrast, cadet future pilots reported being primarily concerned that concussion self-disclosure would have negative United States Air Force career repercussions (t (1828) = 10.25, p < .001, Cohen’s d = 0.50).


These results suggest that cultures of concussion non-disclosure can develop in any population where disclosure is perceived as having undesirable consequences, not just athletic populations.

Concussion researchers and practitioners should devote more attention to the perceived cost-benefit structures that create concussion non-disclosure to address this crucial public health issue more effectively.


Foster, C.A., D’Lauro, C. & Johnson, B.R. (2019) Pilots and athletes: Different concerns, similar concussion non-disclosure. PLoS One. 14(5), pp.e0215030. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0215030. eCollection 2019.


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