Following on from my colleague Beth’s article on 14 January 2022 as to whether concussion in sport is taken seriously enough, the magazine Horse and Hound reported that the government has published an action plan to improve understanding, treatment and prevention of sporting concussion.

This follows an inquiry by the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee which called for UK-wide protocols on dealing with head injuries and improvement in how sporting injuries are reported.

There are 4 main areas areas of focus: research, education, health and technology across all levels of sport and not just professionals and “elite” athletes.

The Government’s independent concussion advisor, Laurence Geller, wants concussion to treated more effectively through the NHS and he hopes to see improvements by June 2022.    He said he recognises the “potentially life-changing impacts of head injuries in sports”.

It is hoped there can be a multi-disciplinary approach, with experts from the medical profession, science and technology working together to devise protocols, knowledge and equipment to make sports safer all round.  This would include a sports-wide set of protocols for safety and in particular, with sports that receive public funding to develop and use these.

It is hoped that associations of the different sports will get together to discuss training, stressing particularly the need for long term welfare, given what is now coming out in relation to older participants developing conditions such as dementia and the training of young athletes so as to avoid injuries.  One of the issues being looked at is the need to give athletes time to recover from injuries without this being a hindrance to their advancement in sport, which is a worry for many.

A sports concussion research forum has also been formed.

We have a particular interest in equestrian sport at Ringrose Law and one of the interesting things about that is that men and women compete together on equal terms and this gives an unusual chance for research to see whether and if so how, concussion and other injuries affect men and women differently and whether different approaches to treatment are needed.

This is very relevant as research tells us that females are more susceptible to concussion, twice as much as males and in horse racing 3.6 times more, but most of the research in concussion so far has been in male sports.

Brain injury charity Headway, of which our Head of Department is trustee of our local group,  has welcomed the response, while also calling for increased scrutiny, plus a cohesive and consistent approach to concussion in sport .

But Chief Executive Peter McCabe also commented:

“Shared concussion protocols will help to reduce inconsistencies in the way head injuries are identified and dealt with in sport, but protocols are only of value if they are properly implemented and understood…. everyone involved in sport needs to be concussion aware”

Concussion is often dismissed as “just a bit of mild concussion”, but it can be much more than that and last much longer than anyone thought.  As lawyers, we do not dismiss it lightly, as we see the long term damage head injuries cause. As we get more sophisticated investigations and scanners, we begin to see the more subtle damage to the brain that would previously have been missed and with hindsight can sometimes give answers puzzling changes in behaviour and health problems that would not have been linked to a head injury or concussion.

It may be that an opportunity has been missed in the recent overhaul of the Highway Code for cycling helmets and riding hats to become compulsory, at least on roads, but if research shows that this would reduce injuries, or at least the severity of them, that may change.

If you have been injured in a sporting incident and would like advice as to whether a claim could be made, contact one of our personal injury lawyers on 01522 561020 or email wecanhelp@ringroselaw.co.uk for a free initial discussion.

 

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