Developments in professional and amateur sports have increased the risks of concussion and brain injury, according to a report published in Ireland last week.
The Report on Concussion in Sport by a parliamentary health committee, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children, urged the Irish government to develop a coherent strategy to reduce the risk of injuries from concussion in sport.
It recommended that any sportsperson experiencing or diagnosed with concussion should be immediately removed from play, regardless of pitch-side assessments. And it said that sporting organisations, schools and medics need to do more to roll out standard guidelines on ‘return to play´ rules.
Commenting on recent developments in sport, committee chairman Jerry Buttimer said: “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 sportsmen and women.”
Members of the committee want to see a Taskforce on Sport and Concussion established to develop uniform guidelines and a consistent approach to how brain injury in sport is handled. This taskforce would include medical experts, brain injury advocates, sporting bodies, youth organisations and government departments. Amongst other things, it would consider possible rule changes in sporting disciplines to minimise the impact of sports-related concussion, and advise on the use of helmets and other protective headgear in certain sports.
Other recommendations of the report include linking state funding for sporting organisations to the completion of sports concussion training courses for referees, medical professionals and coaches.
The report also highlighted gaps in knowledge relating to sports-related concussion and called for more research on sports and concussion in Ireland, with international co-operation to pool data.
Buttimer commented: “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.”