- Committee calls for a coherent strategy to reduce the risk of injuries from sports concussion
- Taskforce on Sport and Concussion needed to develop uniform guidelines and a consistent approach
This morning the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children published its Report on Concussion in Sport. Having held hearings with medical experts, sports organisations, players representatives and policy makers the Committee has called for the development of a coherent strategy to reduce the risk of injuries from sports concussion. Any sportsperson experiencing or diagnosed with concussion should be immediately removed from play, regardless of pitch-side assessments. And sporting organisations, schools and medics need to do more work to roll-out standard guidelines on Return to Play rules.
In recent years, high profile and very serious concussion incidents across a number of sports both at amateur and elite level have underlined the extent of the problem. As a country, if we don’t have a coherent strategy on sports concussion, we will put the lives of our sports stars at risk. This Report seeks to chart a practical way forward to reduce these risks. For the first time in Ireland, our Committee sessions allowed key experts to come together to discuss this issue in a public forum. We were particularly struck by the willingness of all Irish sporting bodies to invest in measures to reduce the risk of concussion and brain injury.
Concussion can be fatal, especially if a player is left in a game and sustains a second impact, or Second Impact Syndrome. Concussion can often have longer-term effects, with some evidence suggesting that repeat concussions can lead to early onset dementia.
As a Committee, we are particularly concerned at recent developments in Irish sport. The pace of games can be far more intense, while players are getting heavier and the number of tackles is increasing. Although some progress has been made in recent years, it was also very clear from the testimony that sports concussion is a growing risk, particularly for schoolchildren and amateur sports men and women.
More could be achieved by all of the stakeholders pooling their expertise to work together on a common strategy across Government Departments, sporting organisations and educational institutions. Hence the call for a cross disciplinary government-sponsored task force to draw up a robust response aimed at reducing these injuries.
In its Report on Concussion in Sport published this morning, the Committee highlights the increased risks of concussion and brain injury, as a result of developments in professional and amateur sports.
The report recommends the establishment of a Taskforce on Sport and Concussion to develop uniform guidelines and a consistent approach to how we handle brain injury in sport. The Committee recommends that the Taskforce include medical experts, brain injury advocates, sporting bodies, youth organisations and government departments so that a coherent strategy can be rolled out.
The report finds that concussion in children needs to be managed differently than adults, with implications for school and amateur sports.
The Committee urges the application of the Zurich 2012 Statement on Concussion across Irish sports at all ages.
The report also suggests that state funding for sporting organisations should be linked to the completion of sports concussion training courses for referees, medical professionals and coaches.
The Concussion in Sport report recommends that the Taskforce:
- consider what measures should be taken by the IRFU / GAA / FAI and other disciplines to develop a joint educational and awareness programme to improve awareness of sports-related concussion;
- devise standard guidance on concussion diagnosis and Return to Play protocols for players, parents, coaches, medics, schools and sporting organisations;
- make recommendations on rule changes in sporting disciplines to minimise the impact of sports-related concussion. For example, the report recommends that the Taskforce should consider measures to relax rules on substitution for concussed players;
- make recommendations on the use of helmets and other protective headgear in certain sports;
- examine how to standardise Return to Play advice to children and young people across the public / private school systems and between sporting codes, and
- assess how the compulsory recording of sports-related concussion incidents in schools and sporting activities involving children, in line with Health and Safety and Child Safety standards, would be achieved.
Given the gaps in knowledge in the area, the Committee is also urging more research on sports and concussion in Ireland. International co-operation to pool data would be the best way forward.