New Concussion Guidelines for Australian Junior and Local Sport
In a groundbreaking collaboration between the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), Australasian College of Sport & Exercise Physicians, Sports Medicine Australia, and the Australian Physiotherapy Association, new concussion guidelines for youth and community sports have been released. These guidelines, aligned with the UK Department of Culture, Media, and Sport and the NZ Government Accident Compensation Corporation, provide crucial information on recognising and managing concussions from the moment of injury to a safe return to education, work, and sports activities.
Concussion is identified as a brain injury that disrupts normal brain function, impacting an individual’s cognitive, emotional, sleep, and physical abilities. The injury can manifest in various ways, including feelings of fogginess, emotional changes, sleep disturbances, and physical symptoms like headaches and dizziness.
Causes and Onset of Symptoms
Concussion typically results from a collision with another person or object, transmitting impulsive forces to the head or body. Onset of symptoms may vary, and the injury can evolve over hours or days, affecting balance and cognitive function.
Recognising Concussion: “If in Doubt, Sit Them Out”
The guidelines emphasise the importance of the “Concussion Recognition Tool 6 (CRT6)” as an aid to on-field recognition. If visible signs or symptoms, such as headaches, sensitivity to light or noise, balance issues, or emotional changes, are present post-injury, individuals should be immediately removed from play or training and not return to activity that day.
Immediate Management and Graded Return to Sport
Following a suspected concussion, parents, coaches and club support staff must be wary of “red flags” that suggest immediate hospitalisation is crucial. These “red flags” include neck pain, confusion, headaches, loss of vision, vomiting and many more.
Once cleared, a graded return to sport framework (GRTSF) is outlined, involving a period of rest, introduction of light exercise, and gradual return to learning and sport activities.
Return to Sport Timeframes and Multiple Concussions
The guidelines provide specific timeframes for return to sport, considering the age of the individual. Athletes under 19 years old are recommended to be symptom-free for 14 days before returning to contact training and a minimum of 21 days before resuming competitive contact sport. For those with a history of multiple concussions, a more conservative approach is advised.
Community Involvement and Concussion Officer
To ensure the proper implementation of concussion protocols, it is recommended that clubs and schools appoint a ‘concussion officer.’ This individual, similar to a ‘fire warden,’ oversees protocol adherence but is not expected to diagnose concussion.
These guidelines, based on global best practices and aligned with international standards, aim to provide clarity and consistency in concussion management across all levels of sports. With a focus on education, recognition, and proper management, the Australian Institute of Sport seeks to enhance the safety of youth and community sports participants.
For additional resources and detailed information, refer to the AIS Concussion and Brain Health Position Statement 2024 and other relevant documents available on the AIS website. Remember, “If in doubt, sit them out.”