concussion in sport

Concussion Information Night by Aut Even Hospital 

On a very cold evening last Thursday 3rd March, sporting heroes, health professionals, academics, supporters, parents, and players came together and braved the cold to learn from an expert in the field of this serious topic and to hear the experiences of their idols with regards to concussion.

Dr Willie Stewart of the University of Glasgow and a prominent world renowned researcher in concussion and chronic traumatic encephelopathy came together with Alan Quinlan and Kevin McLoughlin form the world of rugby and Rena Buckley and Henry Shefflin from the world of GAA. It was a most informative night and we at the clinic thoroughly enjoyed it. Many thanks to Debbie Woodcock and Aut Even for organising the event.

The fact is concussion is a brain injury and it was reassuring for us as health professionals to witness Dr Stewart speak so frankly on the matter. Speaking frankly was not intended to shock and scare people into giving up contact sport, it was intended to highlight the dangers of this phenomenon so we can better manage the health of our players.

For anyone interested in the science they should follow this link to the Concussion Legacy Foundation Learning Centre, an excellent easy to follow resource on the same. Put simply our brains work on electrical signals and our nerve cells are activated and transmit messages in this way. The cell body of the neuron connects to another via the axon. This is effectively a bridge to the next nerve on the chain. The trauma received from concussion damages these bridges and the signals get lost or stuck. Unfortunately these cellular injuries do not recover. This is how brain injury works in traumatic cases, concussion is no different.

Unfortunately the science is lagging behind the incidences. There is much we know about concussion thanks to advances in recent years and the new discussions on the same. However there are still limitations that people need to realise:

  • Concussion is a complex phenomen. The insult to the brain alters your normal brain function so symptoms are wide spread and concern generally anything your brain does.
  • We have no reliable indicator of whether or not it has occurred like we do with blood tests for various medical problems. Concussion is a medical OPINION therefore and not a diagnosis. Research is ongoing to find the ideal group of tests to help us with this.
  • Blunt trauma to the head is not essential and rotational forces are more likley to cause injury (think of someone being hit in the jaw). The whiplash effect causes your brain to rapidly accelerate and decelerate within the skull. As one suffers multiple concussion it gets easier and easier to receive another.
  • Serious long term health consequences are a fact of brain injury. Some of these consequences have been implicated with concussion also.

If you have any concerns about concussion or think you may have suffered the same please don’t take a chance.

“If in doubt, sit it out!”

For information on rehabilitation following concussion please follow your sporting governing bodies respective guidelines. Please find the IRFU Concussion Guidelines at this link. The GAA Concussion Guidelines are here also.

Education, research, sensible and informed practice, regular review of our sports and amending risk factors are the best way to combat the crisis. Thankfully this is well underway.

If you have any questions or concerns about the same please don’t hesitate to contact us at the clinic, have a look at the links provided above, follow Dr Willie Stewart on Twitter or have a look at the Cashel Community School Young Social Innovator Team’s wonderful animation on the same. These are all excellent places to start.