We make no apology for re-visiting this issue yet again.

The magazine Horse and Hound recently carried a report on an inquiry into concussion in sport, which is calling for UK-wide protocols on dealing with head injuries, and improvement in the reporting of sporting injuries.

The Government’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee set up the inquiry because of growing evidence of a link between taking part in sport and developing dementia later in life, and whether the Government ought to be doing something about it.  We have previously blogged on this issue in football, rugby, cycling and equestrian sports, but it bears re-visiting.

A report has now been published and recommendations made.

These include NHS England reviewing how it collates concussion data and ensuring doctors have patients’ full medical history available to better inform treatment. The report recommends that the Government immediately mandates the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to work with sport national governing bodies to establish a national framework by July 2022 for reporting injuries, and establishes a research fund and a specialist group to review emerging science on concussion.

The report does acknowledge that no sport can be 100% safe and indeed for many, this is part of the attraction.  We also do not want people discouraged from sport given its health benefits. But as the report says:

“The Government has a duty to ensure that sporting activity, at every level, bears no unnecessary risk. We recommend it establishes a UK-wide minimum standard definition for concussion that all sports must use and adapt for their sport,”

The Medical Equestrian Association (MEA) is an association of doctors and allied professions all with an interest in equestrian sport.  One of our Associate Solicitors in the personal injury and medical negligence department, Brenda Gilligan, is a member as she has a special interest in horse and rider accidents. Their chair, Megan Hardman told Horse and Hound the report is “very valuable”, and data collection is important.  She did however caution that in equestrian sport, a “culture change” is needed around riders returning to the saddle too soon after injury.

This is a known “thing” among riders and it can almost be a matter of pride as to how quickly you can be up and riding and even competing again, even after serious back or head injuries.  We are not saying that riders shouldn’t make their best efforts to recover, but this has to be in line with medical advice.  Too soon can cause severe set-backs, quite the opposite to the intended outcome.

Dr Hardman said:

“At grassroots level we need riders to destigmatise head injuries so there’s not that bravado that you have to get straight back on. It’s that real ‘battling through injury’ mindset and being ‘brave’ – we see it in all equestrian sports,” she said.

“Doctors might say to a rider ‘you need two weeks of no riding’, but once that person walks away from that event we have no control over what they do. We can’t force them”

Her point being that riders have to believe what the doctors are telling them.

Dr Hardman added that as a result of the report the MEA and British Eventing (BE) plan to produce guidance to be handed out to riders at events on what to do following a head injury, though advice cards are already handed out.

But Dr Hardman believes they could be more explicit in their advice and say definitively “Do, or don’t do THIS”

She hopes to have someone from the Injured Jockeys Fund, jockeys being no strangers to falls and concussion, to come to talk to the MEA and British Eventing (BE) so that the advice is consistent across various elements of riding sports.

British Equestrian chief executive Jim Eyre said that they  are “committed to upholding the highest standards” of welfare for all, and takes the risk of neurological injuries and concussion “extremely seriously”. Which they should, because it is.

He makes this point, which could apply to many sports, not just equestrianism:

“While riding helmets will help to protect riders from significant head injury trauma, we recognise they may not protect from concussion. Therefore, concussion as part of athlete welfare is regularly reviewed at all levels, from Pony Club to BEF’s world class programme”

People think concussion is no more than a bang on the head and so not a significant injury. But NO head injury can be said to be insignificant.  The brain is a very vulnerable soft mass and is surprisingly easily injured in moments.

If you do suffer from a “bang on the head”, however minor you think it is, do get yourself checked over medically as soon as you can.  It may avoid a more serious condition such as a slow brain bleed being missed and going untreated.

The consequences of a brain injury can be devastating, as we know from our work as personal injury and medical negligence solicitors.  Ringrose Law are members of Headway, the head injury support charity and in fact, our Head of Department and Senior Director John Knight is a Headway Trustee.  He also won’t mind us saying that he understands about brain injury first- hand, as his son suffered an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) some years ago.

If you need help with a possible head injury claim contact our team on 01522 561020 or email wecanhelp@ringroselaw.co.uk



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