New concussion guidance for athletes in grassroots sport underlines key message of ‘if in doubt, sit them out’ | UK News
The first UK-wide concussion guidelines for athletes in grassroots sports – urging against any return to playing within 24 hours of a head injury – have been published by the government.
Caution is being advised with the message: “If in doubt, sit them out.”
But any risk is being balanced with still encouraging people to play sport for the health benefits in the guidelines produced by the government and Sport and Recreation Alliance.
They are a response to growing concerns about the potential neurodegenerative conditions among former football and rugby players, with research showing they can be more likely to develop dementia or Parkinson’s than the general population as a result of repeated blows to the head.
The group that drafted the guidelines was chaired by Professor James Calder – a renowned surgeon who has operated on football stars including Gareth Bale and Neymar.
He told Sky News: “We know that sports and exercise is good for both mental health and physical health.
“We need to have some guidance, should a person have a concussive event. And there hasn’t been UK-wide guidance.
“Scotland introduced some guidance several years ago and… it seems appropriate that we actually produce UK-wide guidance that can then be rolled out through to all different types of sports.”
The guidelines advise against phone and computer use for at least the first 48 hours after a suspected concussion to “improve recovery”.
They add: “Anyone with concussion should generally rest for 24-48 hours but can undertake easy activities of daily living and walking, but must avoid intense exercise, challenging work, or sport.
“They can then progress through the graduated return to activity (education/work) and sport programme.
“Anyone with symptoms that last longer than 28 days should be assessed and managed by an appropriate healthcare professional.”
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But staying on the pitch or making a speedy return can be hard to resist – even after a blow to the head.
Simon Shaw was always thinking about the present – playing as much rugby as possible for England and the British and Irish Lions before campaigning on concussion.
He told Sky News: “I was playing a high contact sport. I was prepared to take the risks, whether that’s a dislocated shoulder or broken ankle or whatever there was.
“There was obviously a lot of bravado in our sport. I tried to stay on the pitches as often as possible, but I was acutely aware that there could be problems in the future.”
That is why he is backing the guidelines published today, adding: “Just making sports, whatever the risk of concussion, a much safer place is very important for the health and wellbeing of the nation.”
This guidance is aimed at grassroots sport where medics won’t often be there to treat suspected concussions like last week in the Premier League – a fall led to Jan Bednarek being substituted by Southampton, despite the defender wanting to play on at Arsenal.
For those researching degenerative brain disease it’s about managing the safe return to playing after head traumas – not deterring people from playing.
The goal is one day having saliva or blood tests for concussion.
“We don’t have it yet, and we’re working hard,” said Professor Willie Stewart, consultant neuropathologist at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.
“We made a lot of progress the last few years that would have been unthinkable before then. But we have… some way to go.”