Concussion in Sport: What is it and what can we do?

By SANJEEV MANN

CONCUSSION is something that has been talked about a lot recently, especially in sport.

The likes of American Football has had a constant problem, and even football has had issues.

Amazingly, according to the National Football League’s recorded statistics, 182 players reported concussions in regular-season games last season. This is a 58% rise over the 2014 season and the highest number in four years of record-keeping.

A report published by The England Professional Rugby Injury Surveillance Project, in collaboration with Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players’ Association, was released in February 2015 involving head injuries.

It found that after 1,000 hours of time played, 6.7 incidence of concussion were reported in rugby in 2012, this increased to 10.5 in 2013.

This number was as high as 17 in boxing, and 25 in horse racing. Perhaps the most hard-hitting statistic is the percentage of players that have sustained at least one concussion in rugby. A massive 13 PER CENT is the answer. These stats perhaps show the rise in awareness of the issue.

FIFA has already looked to raise awareness, and the Premier League, and Football Association in England have also brought in new rules around head injuries on the pitch, forcing players to come off the pitch with any sort of head collision.

Then, of course, the arguable health issues around mixed martial arts in companies such as UFC. But what do the experts think?

Before talking about this, we need to first understand what concussion is. By definition it is “a temporary disturbance to the brain’s function.”

This usually makes victims become knocked out. However, concussion can also occur while the brain is still active.

For example: someone may still be awake even after suffering a concussion, and this is the worry of many people involved. There is only a loss of consciousness in around 10 per cent of concussions.Many experts are also worried about the fact that it is an injury, which evolves. That’s why preventing further hits to the head is of high importance. This is specifically when sport becomes involved in the issue. For example, if a competitor suffers concussion after a rugby tackle, it is important for them to have recovery time. But often this isn’t the case.

Today I spoke to people about their thoughts on the issue, how serious it is, and the things we can do to resolve the issue.

Firstly, I spoke to Headway UK’s Director of Communications Luke Griggs specifically about the risks of head injury in sport.

Luke said: “I think there are risks in everything we do in life, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we can avoid them. Sport plays a key role in keeping us healthy and active, and we would certainly encourage people to get out there and get involved in sport.”

Moving on, we went on to talk about the differences between sports such as boxing and football.

He said: “I think while we’re talking about the dangers and risks in sport it’s important to split the sports into the ones that have a safe and sensible approach to head injuries and those where the ultimate objective is to target the head and cause neurological damage to win the bout or contest.

“Any sports that do involve targeting the brain or head such as boxing and mixed martial arts, according to charities like the British Medical Association want them to be banned because of the significant health risks they pose.

“When it comes to sports such as football and rugby where there is a risk of head injury, it’s vital to make sure people have a sound understanding of concussion. Perhaps a sit it out approach if head injury is suspected.”

But how can concussion be limited in sport? According to Luke, having an understanding is the most important thing.

He said: “Firstly having an understanding of why concussions and reported concussions are increasing. If you look at the Premiership in the last couple of years, you have seen a significant rise in the number of concussions reported, but I don’t think that’s anything to panic about. It’s more a case of more understanding and awareness, and a sensible approach.”

Luke also believes that individuals competing in these sports must take responsibility for themselves and the health risks that may be involved in competing.

He insisted: “Sometimes people are making a greater risk and taking an almost macho approach and playing on, but cause further damage in doing so. It’s something that’s very hard to diagnose and identify.

“A great deal of it is self-reporting. For example, people putting their hand up saying they don’t feel right, or they are feeling light-headed.

“They’re the sorts of things that are difficult to identify so it needs to come from the individual and I think we are seeing it more and more. I know sports like football are looking at ways they can reduce concussion such as better training and that’s all to be welcomed.”

So according to him it’s an important issue that people have to become more aware about, especially for the health and safety of people competing, most importantly our youngsters.

 

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