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Time for concussion checks in sport.

View profile for Kim Daniells
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Television audiences for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, and for the current Six Nations competition, will be familiar with players occasionally having to leave the pitch to undergo head injury assessments. The risks of concussion and the significance of it for players long term health are an accepted and acknowledged part of the modern sport at international, national and local levels.

Rugby is, however, not the only sport where the risk of serious head injury arises. In the summer of 2019 the Australian cricket captain, Steven Smith, during an Ashes match, was struck by a ball travelling at 92mph. Smith left the field to undergo concussion testing but then resumed his innings within an hour.

After close of play on that day, he was however diagnosed with delayed concussion which ruled him out for the remainder of the test match.

It is not clear however that the significance of concussion and head injuries during matches is a readily acknowledged in football.

As Headway report in their Winter 2019 Headway News, “Wales manager Ryan Giggs told a packed press conference that player Daniel James was never knocked out or concussed, but was “acting” during a match against Croatia.”

Headway go on in their article to feature the case of former York City footballer Daniel Parslow.

As Headway report, Daniel suffered a brain injury when the side of his head collided with an opponent’s shoulder during a match against Hereford FC in February 2019.

Daniel passed the teams concussion protocol test and was considered able to return to play.

In fact Daniel was clearly not well enough. A minute after returning to the field and as the half time whistle blew, he staggered to the dressing room. He was unable to play for the rest of the match.

In Headway’s article Daniel reports experiencing severe headache, double vision and nausea. Symptoms continued in the following days.

When Daniel retired recently his club held a benefit match to celebrate his years with the team but also to raise awareness of concussion. Headway have been at the forefront of calls to introduce more time to conduct assessments following a head injury. Daniel supports Headway’s calls and is also in favour of temporary substitutions.

He acknowledges that following the incident in which he was injured, he should not have been returned to play. He accepts that concussion guidelines were followed but makes clear that these do not allow enough time for symptoms to develop.

We support the calls made both by Daniel Parslow and by Headway. It is critical that the medical professionals who deal with match injuries have enough time to make a thorough assessment – they must not feel under pressure from match officials or fans. Proper concussion guidelines which allow enough time for proper assessment are essential. Most athletes make a good recovery from concussion but they are particularly vulnerable whilst their brain is recovering from the initial trauma. A second blow in those circumstances can have devastating effects.

Over recent years, followers of all sports from professional cycling, cricket, rugby and football have seen players suffer devastating and sometimes fatal head injuries in competition. Whilst it might not be possible to eliminate the risk of a head injury in sport, the very least we can do for these athletes is protect them from a risk that we understand and can prevent.