Concussion in sport and recreation

Position

The State Government through the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries recognises that the occurrence of concussion in sport and active recreation can place the health of participants at risk. The Department recommends that all sport and recreation organisations in Western Australia develop relevant policies, guidelines and action plans aimed to reduce the prevalence of concussion and to better manage and rehabilitate participants.  

Purpose

To provide best practise guidelines for the recognition, treatment and management of sport and recreation related concussion injuries.

What is concussion?

Concussion refers to a disturbance in brain function caused by a direct or indirect force to the head. The effect concussion can have on a participant can vary from person to person, and injury to injury. Usually the changes are temporary and the majority of participants recover completely if managed correctly.

Issues

  • The effect of a concussion injury varies from person to person, and with all incidents of concussions the effective management and rehabilitation is paramount.
  • Not all sport and active recreation organisations have the relevant policies, guidelines, action plans and trained people to effectively manage concussion.
  • Concussions are more prevalent in high contact sports such as; Australian Rules Football (AFL), rugby union and rugby league.
  • Sports concussion is more common in children compared to any other age group. This is due to significant physical, physiological and developmental differences amongst children.
  • Children may take longer to recover from concussion compared with adults.

Background

Concussion is a relatively common injury in many sport and recreational activities. In Australia, high participation sports such as AFL, rugby league and rugby union have amongst the highest rates of head injury in the world. The reported incidence of concussion in these sports ranges from 3-10 concussive injures per 100 player hours, which equates to an average of five injuries per team per season, regardless of the level of competition. This represents a significant public health issue in active communities.

Sport and recreation organisations (such as clubs and regional/state associations) have an important role to play in preventing the likelihood of concussion occurring, and managing and rehabilitating injured participants. It is important for such organisations to have contemporary polices, guidelines and action plans in place and made available to all members. Trained personnel in wilderness first aid, sports first aid and/or sports trainer are recommended.

In considering the best practise management of concussion in sport and recreation, the critical element remains the welfare of the participant, both in the short and long term. Any participant with suspected concussion must be withdrawn from the activity, referred to a medical practitioner immediately for assessment and diagnosis and not to return to the activity that day. 

Implementation

The Department requires all funded State Sporting Associations to have a Concussion in Sport policy.

All sport and recreation organisations are encouraged to develop policies consistent with their peak body that encompass the following key areas:

  • Education of coaches, guides, leaders, officials and support personnel;
  • Activity/game day management; and
  • Rehabilitation inclusive of returning to activity, training and game environments.

Sample policies, guidelines and management plans for clubs and associations are available from Sports Medicine Australia WA Branch Concussion in Sport Project website.

The Department supports Sports Medicine Australia (WA) to raise awareness and understanding of concussion and support the delivery of best practice management of concussion injuries through all levels of sport and recreation in Western Australia. 

Contacts

Manager Industry Development
Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries – Sport and Recreation
Telephone 08 9492 9700

References

Sample policies, guidelines and other resources are available at the following websites:

Endorsed

17 May 2016

Review

1 February 2017