Some sports fans watching less because of serious injuries

VANCOUVER – The Buffalo Bills likely had an easier time preparing for their playoff matchup last weekend – at least mentally – knowing that teammate and rookie safety Damar Hamlin has been released from hospital after suffering a terrifying injury on Jan. 2. 

The Bills took on the Miami Dolphins, a team 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% 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.

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.