The Silent Epidemic: Assessing Policy Equilibrium and Punctuation on the Issue of Sport-Related Concussions

Title: The Silent Epidemic: Assessing Policy Equilibrium and Punctuation on the Issue of Sport-Related Concussions
Authors: Quirion, Alex
Date: 2-Feb-2017
Abstract: Sport-Related Concussions (SRC) represent an important public health issue. An estimated 1.8 to 3.5 million SRC occur each year in the United-States. As our understanding of the brain evolves and evidence becomes available, policymakers are increasingly interested in addressing the issue of SRC. Analysed through the theoretical lens of Frank Baumgartner and Bryan Jones’ Punctuated Equilibrium Theory (PET), this Major Research Paper investigates the forces that contributed to policy stability, and those that contributed to policy change on the issue of SRC. As a policy process theory, the PET documents how policymaking is characterized by long periods of stability and incremental change, only to be punctuated through radical shifts. While most policy process models are interested in understanding either policy stability or change, the PET encompasses both. Our research delineates the contextual conditions and narratives of four SRC incidences, two of which involve athletes at the amateur level (Zachery Lystedt and Rowan Stringer), and two involving professional athletes (Mike Webster and Sidney Crosby). The qualitative data retrieved from our cases is compared with the theoretical components of the PET. Our findings suggest that although SRC have plagued the sport landscape for years, only recently have they risen to the agenda of policymakers and been subject to state intervention in the United-States and Canada. In the 1990s, policy stability on the issue of SRC was the result of a negative feedback process dominated by monopolistic subsystems that dampened change through a supportive policy image. On the contrary, policy change in the last ten years can be attributed to a positive feedback process characterized by policy entrepreneurs who were successful in redefining the issue by using appropriate institutional venues. This Major Research Paper concludes with recommendations for policy entrepreneurs. In particular, our research suggests that policy change goes beyond simple partisan and electoral explanations. Agents of change seeking to alter the mindset of apathetic policymakers should strategically align their lobbying efforts, discourse, and overall actions to create a self-reinforcing process that accentuates change.
CollectionAffaires publiques et internationales - Mémoires // Public and International Affairs - Research Papers
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