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Reduce concussion risks so generations can keep enjoying contact sport: PHAA

Public Health Association of Australia Inc 2 mins read

5 September 2023

Reduce concussion risks so generations can keep enjoying contact sport: PHAA

Finals season is a good time to reflect on how sports-related concussions and the associated long-term disability can be prevented so more people keep playing, the country’s peak body for public health said.

Reducing damage to the brains of current and future generations of aspiring sporting stars will help families encourage children to play healthy, active sports for longer.

The Public Health Association of Australia’s comments follow the tabling today of a Senate inquiry into concussions and repeated head trauma in contact sports. PHAA welcomes the inquiry, sent this submission (#58), and gave testimony.

“While the focus might be on the impact on high profile contact sport heroes under pressure to stay on the field for their team’s glory, those cases are the tip of the iceberg,” PHAA CEO, Adj Prof Terry Slevin said.

“Changing how professional sport is played and managed, with a focus on preventing concussion, will flow down to the grassroots and so benefit hundreds of thousands of people who play community sport on weekends.

“With over half a million registered AFL players, 276,000 rugby league players and 230,000 rugby union players, and more women playing such codes, contact sport is on the rise. So too may be the prospect of greater long-term damage due to concussion. Therefore it’s imperative to ensure the best preventive interventions are in place to ensure fewer people get hurt.”

No one should play while they have or are suspected of having a concussion. Concussion’s short-term effects include headaches, nausea, vomiting, slurred speech, dizziness, temporary loss of memory, and an inability to focus. Some symptoms may last months, and some side effects may not appear until years later.

Concussions cause increased demand on hospitals (particularly emergency departments) and GPs, absence from work or school, potential loss of income, inability to complete daily activities, or drive. Repeated head trauma can cause symptoms to be severe and long lasting.

PHAA supports efforts to better identify and manage concussions. We are keen to ensure more attention is provided to primary prevention measures to reduce the number of sport-related concussions.

That means more research into such interventions, in particular more studies to demonstrate different impacts of rule changes. Rules should be altered now, despite the research deficit. If it is believed that rule could help reduce incidence of sports-related concussions, we support the precautionary approach.

“The best way to manage concussion is to avoid it happening in the first place,” Adj Prof Slevin said.

“If more families can be confident that safety is a priority at the highest levels of sport, more people can enjoy more of the benefits of sport, without paying the long-term price of injury and disability.”

For further information/comment:

Paris Lord (he/him), PHAA Communications & Media Manager, 0478 587 917, plord@phaa.net.au


Contact details:

Paris Lord (he/him), PHAA Communications & Media Manager, 0478 587 917, plord@phaa.net.au

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