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Tackling concussion head-on:

A new online resource to help parents and grassroots sporting clubs to recognise and manage concussion in young players.
By Motherpedia
Date: March 14 2013
Editor Rating:

Parents of young football players of any persuasion - rugby league, soccer football, rugby union and AFL - are being urged to be more aware of the severity of concussion this season.

Injury data shows that that 1 in 5 junior rugby league players are likely to suffer a concussion this year.

The call comes with the launch of a community program, known as Sports Concussion Australasia, that offers easy access to a series of tools to identify and diagnose concussion and advice on effective treatment.

The Founder of the program at Herron Sports Concussion Australasia, Dr Ryan Kohler, said that concussion is a serious issue for many sports, and with incidence of concussion in rugby league comparable to other contact sports, it can be catastrophic at a grassroots level where adequate medical support may not be available on the sideline.

“Grassroots sport in this country is primarily founded on the generous time and well-meaning support of volunteers – frequently family and friends – a far cry from the qualified medical staff that professional players have access to,” Dr Kohler said.

“Yet the possibility of concussion in community contact sports, particularly junior rugby league, remain just as high. Concussion rates, especially at a grassroots level, are underreported with many of the incidences going unrecognised or ignored.

“We want junior players to be able to continue to play the sports they love, while providing parents with peace of mind. This is why we have developed this program and are providing players, parents, coaches and other sports administrators with easy access to a range of tools that help recognise the warning signs of concussion and serious injury and provide a guide of where to find help,” Dr Kohler said.

The Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles have welcomed the launch of the program and have joined the call for junior clubs to take action and understand how to handle concussion.

No stranger to concussion is Sea Eagles utility forward Jamie Buhrer. Having been concussed at both amateur and professional level, he believes that players at all levels need to be aware of the symptoms of concussion.

“I have been lucky throughout my career that when I suffered concussion it was diagnosed correctly and treated appropriately. It’s vital that all those involved in sport, even players from a young age, learn to recognise the symptoms of concussion and know what to do when it happens,” Mr Buhrer said.

Those sentiments are echoed by Sea Eagles back rower Glenn Stewart. While Glenn has escaped any serious head injuriesin his career, he encourages all amateur sporting clubs to utilise the program’s resources to assist in the diagnosis and management of concussion.

“It’s great to see juniors – and seniors – out having fun on the field. When playing contact sports though, it’s vital that safety comes first. If anyone receives a knock during the game, they need to let their parents or coach know immediately, so that they can be checked – and concussion doesn’t go undiagnosed. We also want to ensure that people make a safe return to play after an injury and can enjoy a long playing career,” Mr Stewart said.   

The launch of the Herron Sports Concussion Australasia™ program follows the release of the 2012 Zurich Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which introduces new international guidelines on both treatment and returning to play.

The NRL has been quick to adopt the guidelines, vowing to take a stronger stance on concussion in the sport.

“Concussion can result in a number of symptoms depending on the area of the brain which is affected. Visible signs after a blow to the head or body can be short lasting. When you see a doctor, you may look normal but concussion symptoms may still be present, which only you as the injured athlete can feel," Dr Kohler Said.

“By not correctly recognising the signs and symptoms of concussion, or ignoring them, you can put yourself at risk of serious health consequences, which in extreme circumstances can include permanent brain damage or even death,” Dr Kohler said.

Recognising the signs of concussion

  • Unresponsive (eyes closed, no movement, not talking)
  • Seizure
  • Muscle rigidity / tonic posturing
  • Loss of body tone / flaccidity
  • Loss of memory
  • Poor balance
  • Unsteadiness
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Holding the head
  • Slow in getting up
  • Blank stare, look
  • Uncooperative
  • Argumentative
  • Emotional, tearful
  • Poor playing performance
  • Reports concussion symptoms
  • Team mates report unusual behaviour

* * *

Further information: see Sports Concussion Australasia

Pictured: Under 12, Div 1 Beacon Hill Bears rugby league team

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