Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Concussion inaction threatens regional community sports

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Regional football and community sporting clubs risk folding if recommendations on concussion and head knocks – particularly in junior sport – are not implemented appropriately by sporting codes, the Shadow Assistant Minister for Regional Health, Dr. Anne Webster, said at the weekend. 

An Australia Institute of Sport report recommends:

  • At least 14 days symptom free before return to contact/collision training.
  • A minimum period of 21 days until the resumption of competitive contact/collision sport.
  • Extended rest periods for anyone who suffers multiple concussions.
  • The appointment of concussion officer – similar to a fire warden – for community and school sports.

The report follows a 2023 Senate inquiry into concussion in sport, which recommended sporting codes “develop return to play protocols, adaptable across all sports, for both children and adults that have incurred a concussion or suffered a head trauma.”

Impact

“This is primarily a health matter and frankly the sporting alternatives in regional Australia are more limited than in the cities,” Dr. Webster said.

“I am very concerned how these recommendations may impact the future of country sport, but business-as-usual is not an option for country footy and other sporting codes. As federal representatives in Canberra, we need to provide national leadership on the evolution of our concussion-prone sporting codes, because participation in sport is so critical for young and old alike. We cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

Review

Major sporting bodies, including members of the Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports (COMPPS) – AFL, Rugby Australia, Cricket Australia, Football Federation Australia, National Rugby League, Netball Australia and Tennis Australia – have not endorsed the changes, saying they are continuing to review the proposals before settling on a position.

“We have all seen the evolution in professional sport, for instance with head knocks in the cricket and pauses in play to check on player welfare,” said Dr. Webster.

“To a degree this is also happening at junior level. Junior sports fans and families are seeing concussion taken seriously, and what we need are clear steps on how head-high contact will be managed and how the game will change at a local level, especially for juniors. 

“The culture is changing and we need to nurture that health culture change. The last thing we want is people dropping out of sport, clubs folding and the social fabric of regional communities (already torn during the pandemic) ripped to shreds. 

“I will be discussing with colleagues and stakeholders during this busy February sitting period how we put health and sporting participation at the forefront of this conversation.”

The Buloke Times 6 February 2024

This article appeared in The Buloke Times, 6 February 2024.

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