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Failure to manage concussion could lead to sports exodus

Scotland’s CMO calls for more grass-roots collaboration

Jo Carlowe

Monday, 28 September 2015

Failure to properly manage the risk of concussion at grass-roots level could lead to a drop in sports participation, Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer has warned today.

Writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine with leading experts in sports medicine and science, Dr Catherine Calderwood argues that a failure to promote good quality advice and information throughout amateur sport could lead to lower participation and prompt parents to stop allowing their children to take part.

The article,* co-written with Dr Willie Stewart of Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, an advisor to World Rugby and leading expert on brain injuries in sport, and Dr Andrew Murray a Sports and Exercise Medicine consultant with the University of Edinburgh, calls for more collaboration between sports, to ensure that good concussion management is always present at grass-roots level.

Dr Calderwood and colleagues comment that while there are understandable concerns over sports concussion, there remain considerable health benefits in participation in sport. The solution to managing sports concussion is not to cease sport, but to better inform and manage the injury.

As an example of how this might be achieved, the authors highlight Scotland’s recently launched Scottish Concussion Guidance, where common guidelines were created for all grassroots sports and activities for the management of concussion, from aerobics to zumba, including rugby and football.

Commenting, Dr Calderwood said: “As doctors, our first concern is always the health and wellbeing of the people we look after. Participation in rugby, and in sport offers considerable benefits to physical and mental health, and we are keen to promote sport and an active lifestyle in Scotland. The last thing I want is for parents to stop their children from taking up sport because of the fear of concussion. We must all work together to stop this from happening.

“The launch of the Scottish Concussion Guidelines highlights that we are working hard to educate players, and all those involved in sport, about the dangers of concussion, and we will continue to do so. The clear message is ‘if in doubt, sit them out.’”

Dr Willie Stewart from the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, an advisor to World Rugby and leading expert on brain injuries in sport added:

“Understandably there are concerns around immediate and long-term risks of sports concussion. However, these risks are relatively small and there is also no doubt whatsoever about the many benefits of participation in sport. Through promoting better recognition and management of concussion we would hope to have a win-win situation; all the benefits of sport, with even lower risks from concussion.”

Dr Andrew Murray, a Sports and Exercise Medicine consultant with the University of Edinburgh added: “The fact that concussion has been recently discussed in the Scottish Parliament shows the importance and high profile of this issue. Regular physical activity may be the best present we can give our children, on average they will live seven years longer, be happier, and get better marks at school, so we must encourage this. But you only get one brain. We are lucky in Scotland that major action is already being taken to improve knowledge on concussion, and plans for further action will help. World Rugby have succeeded in making the game safer by changing laws and sanctions in relation to tip tackles, and the scrum, helping decrease neck injuries, and it is welcome they are looking at further changes to make the game enjoyed by so many even safer.”

* Calderwood C, Murray A D, Stewart W. Turning people into couch potatoes is not the cure for sports concussion. Br J Sports Med 2015;0:1–2. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2015-095393

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