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Concussion’s Perception in Professional Sport

We examine the perceptions of concussion in professional sports

13Nov

There has been a huge debate around concussions within sport and the ways in which they are appreciated by both medical and playing staff. A recent example was during the Everton and Tottenham soccer match, where the Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was knocked unconscious and the Tottenham manager allowed him to play on.

This controversial decision by Andre Villas Boas (the Tottenham Manager) has been criticised from all corners of the game, from player organisations to medical practitioners.

At the Elite Minds in Sports summit in London, we heard from some of the leading medical minds currently working in sport. Given the short time since the incident, there were naturally several interesting points on view on the subject.

Declan Lynch, Arsenal's first-team physiotherapist when asked if he would have allowed the player to continue answered "Simple answer, no", he went on to say "I've worked in rugby so I've been exposed to a lot of concussion, it's not an area I would mess with."

Everton's head of sports science, Steve Tashjian, would be apprehensive of allowing a player to compete again after a head injury within four days. "I come from the States and we have a much different perspective on treating concussions," he said. "If the Lloris situation happened in the States there would be a significant length of time away depending on how the tests came out."

The response to this from these leading minds does mean that there is a definite appreciation from medical staff of the seriousness of concussions. However, as Andre Villas Boas showed, it is always going to be managers/coaches who have the final decision.

Therefore, in order to truly allow concussion to have the importance in player safety that it should, there needs to be a concerted effort to educate non-medical staff of it's importance.

When we look at sports we are always looking at results and on field performance and in reality players simply become people after their careers on the pitch have ended. By adopting a concentration on player care beyond the last time they appear for a club, this helps franchises in the long term.

A classic example of how this can come back to hurt teams and national associations in the long run comes from the NFL. Players who suffered from concussions playing american football in the past are now coming back to haunt the legal departments as the long term health implications are becoming clearer.

A proposed settlement was reached on August 29, 2013 where the NFL will contribute $765 million to provide medical help to more than 18,000 former players. This is a significant investment for injuries, that until recently were not sufficiently understood.

When using figures like this and looking at the longterm wellbeing of athletes as opposed to seeing it as a responsibility as a past employer, the importance may be more easily conveyed.

Momentum is building for this kind of preventative action, especially with high profile cases such as Hugo Lloris and ahead of the 2015 rugby world cup. It is only a matter of time before concussion prevention gets the attention it deserves and it will be upto those working in sports technology. to prevent the effects in the future. 

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