We as a society love sport and the harsh reality is the sport we love revolves around collisions and high impact contact. As we cheer on the sidelines, we fuel the aggression and passion these athletes radiate every time they run on the field. They run hard to win, they hit hard because we love seeing it. The impact, the sound it makes, the euphoric feeling of seeing your opponent lying on the floor after a big hit, I’m told there is nothing better. But what are these “big hits” doing to our sporting heroes. Eventually they won’t get back up and what do we do then? What will change? Will the games become less physical? Highly doubtful but a change is needed as our athletes are continually sent from their fields week in and week out with suspected impairments, due to these big hits.
You may have guessed by now what I am referring to.
It is potentially one of the biggest talking points within the high performance sporting community. Why you ask? It is not just because Will Smith starred in the movie, although it did bring awareness to the issues at hand. Now more than ever, the years of research and advances in technology, have allowed us to realise the detrimental consequences concussion is having on the elite sporting heroes of yesterday and the potential effects on our sporting stars of tomorrow.
The fact of the matter is these athletes will do whatever means necessary to stay in the game for as a long as possible. They are risking long term health in an attempt to gain match payments and who can blame them, with the average competition life of an athlete being 8 years. For a change to occur we need to break down what concussion is and what is being done to stop its formidable force in today’s competitions.
What is concussion?
Concussion is classified as a brain injury caused by repeated head trauma. The skull is set in place, however high collisions move the brain backwards and forwards within the skull, causing dysfunction. This damage causes chemical and metabolic changes within the brain cells, making it more difficult to function. The symptoms of concussion are not always an immediate response and may not present serious health conditions till years after athletic careers are over. It is this repetitive head trauma that chokes the brain and affects these athletes mentally.
The rate of depression in athletes post playing careers is high. Now, does this have to do with their loss of identity or chemical imbalances within the brain caused by recurrent head traumas? The jury is still out, however these athletes who have had repeated head knocks throughout their careers should be monitored throughout the rest of their lives to ensure the effects of concussion do not lead to more extensive health issues.
What is being done about it?
If you watch the National Rugby League of Australia you will notice players being sent off the field left right and centre with suspected concussion symptoms. Some return to the field of play following a 10 minute assessment, whereas as other fail and are subject to further testing throughout the week. What is most frightening, is more and more athletes are experiencing the effects of concussion on a weekly basis, with those athletes who have suffered previously being increasingly susceptible to the condition again.
Concussion in grassroots sport
Lately, the conversation has seen a shift from just focusing on high performance teams, with an emphasis now on the grassroots sports. It is one of the most commonly reported injuries amongst children and adolescents, accounting for up to 65% of all reported head knocks. It is no wonder this is an issue. Anytime we as parents register our children for any kind of sports activity, there will always be a voice in the back of our heads warning us of potential dangers. Bruises are expected, however concussions are now being thrown around in the mix.
How can we work to prevent it?
Unfortunately there is no cure or treatment for Concussion, a simple ice pack is not going to fix the issue. The only known remedy is rest and to discontinue all forms of physical activity. And you guessed it, this does not go down well with most athletes, young and old. However, governing bodies, organisations, parents and teams can do more to work towards the prevalence of this condition. Education is key to preventing the symptoms of concussion from going unnoticed. Athletes are recommended to wear protective gear, with a push to make it compulsory in the younger grades. Furthermore, parents are encouraged to pull children from future games if they have suffered a head knock of some form.
We need to change our attitude first and foremost.
If youth athletes see their sporting heroes playing on with suspected concussions, what ideas does this give. We need to get across to all athletes, that sitting out of a game with a suspected concussion is not weak. As long as governing bodies and sporting organisations are working towards creating a safer and smarter game, we can only hope new technologies will reduce the rate of concussion and in turn it’s devastating effects.
Naomi speaks all things functional movement. She loves it so much, she adopted it into her daily fitness routine. To say sport was ingrained in Naomi is an understatement.
In fact, she loved it so much, she went on to study sports science at university and has worked for some of the best NRL teams in the country.
Her world is revolved around the sport and she brings this enthusiasm to the table every single day.