Enlisting the community to help in the fight against concussion
No longer a term bandied around with bravado, awareness of the incidence and consequences of sports-related concussion is gaining momentum in Australia. Concussion is a short-term disturbance to normal brain functioning due to an external force impacting the head or body. It is the mildest form of traumatic brain injury.
A person does not need to be “knocked out” to be concussed.
Symptoms may arise immediately or in the hours and days following the injury, and in four out of five people these symptoms will resolve in two to four weeks.
While our sporting elite have been in the spotlight, concussion affects athletes or participants at all levels, from grassroots through to amateur, recreational and professional.
For many years, athletes at all levels have under-reported symptoms, failed to seek medical advice or simply not known what to do. In the professional arena, our athletes have immediate access to medical staff. Protocols are increasingly strictly enforced and recovery is managed well.
Outside of this, there is a void in the provision of best-practice and timely concussion assessments.
It is important that concussion is recognised when it happens, and that people are swiftly removed from play. Current advice recommends the athlete is removed from sport for the rest of the day and cleared by a medical professional before returning to play.
Returning to the field may expose a person to recurrence of symptoms, repeated concussion and, at worst, the potentially catastrophic consequences of second impact syndrome.
Coaches cannot see every potential concussion both on and off the ball. It is therefore up to all of us to collectively work together to ensure players who have experienced a concussion seek medical care.
For the majority, a concussion will be a short-term inconvenience with no lasting impact. Individual recovery times are different for each person and a graded return to normal activities should be managed by a clinician to ensure any symptoms are not made worse.
Sport brings important benefits to health and wellbeing. Risks of long-term effects including CTE are relatively low and balanced by the benefits of improved fitness, weight control and quality of life.
Working together in the assessment and management of concussion, in whatever capacity we play within our sporting communities, will enable our athletes to return to what they love as quickly and as safely as possible.
Opinion piece written by Professor Melinda Fitzgerald as featured in: The Canberra Times; Western Advocate; The Courier; The Observer; Bendigo Advertiser; Oberon Review; Liverpool City Champion; Narromine News; Goulburn Post; Daily Liberal; Illawarra Mercury; Border Chronicle; Beaudesert Times; Forbes Advocate