Concussion. It’s a word no one involved in the world of sport could have avoided over the past few years. From high-profile incidents in international matches to a major Hollywood film, there’s no doubting awareness of the dangers of head injuries has increased.
But exactly how much do we know about concussion? And more to the point, how much do those playing grassroots sport understand about the dangers of ignoring a concussion?
Not enough, according to brain injury charity Headway, which has launched a new campaign to encourage amateur and junior sports clubs to take an ‘If in doubt, sit it out!’ approach to head injuries.
“For too long, the focus of the debate about concussion in sport has been on the elite level, with media attention confined to high-profile head injuries that are improperly treated,” said Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway.
“A great deal has been achieved in the past few years to improve concussion protocols, with the emphasis being placed on professional sport to set a good example for others to follow.
“But we believe everyone who plays sport should be concussion aware – particularly those at grassroots level who are playing purely for the love of it and do not have ambulances and doctors on standby should something go wrong.
“Too many concussions occur every weekend on sports fields across the UK with amateur players risking their short and long-term health by not understanding or appreciating the dangers.”
To address the issue, Headway has launched its Concussion Aware campaign – aimed squarely at grassroots sports.
Clubs, universities, schools and colleges are being encouraged to take advantage of a range of free information materials about concussion on the campaign’s website at
www.concussionaware.org.uk, including factsheets, posters, a digital awareness stamp for club websites, and signposting to sport-specific concussion protocols.
They are also being encouraged to sign a pledge committing to take a safety-first approach to head injuries.
“Sport plays a key role in keeping us fit and healthy,” said Peter. “It’s part of our culture in the UK – and indeed for many other countries across the world.
“This campaign is about ensuring people can continue to enjoy playing sport with better safeguards in place to protect participants.”
The campaign already has the backing of the FA, RFU and WRU, in addition to former England Rugby Union captain Lewis Moody.
“Concussion is something that everyone who plays sport – at whatever level or intensity – should be aware of,” said Lewis. “Don’t play on regardless – you could be putting yourself in danger while also letting your teammates down.
“I urge everyone who plays sport to be concussion aware and take a no-risk approach to head injuries.”
Sportscover, which has adopted Headway as its charity partner for 2016, has also added its weight to the campaign.
Martin Crannis, Chief Executive of Sportscover Europe, said: “We are delighted to support this campaign.
“Participation in sport is vital and, as an industry, we do not want to put people off from playing. It is vital, however, that more is done to ensure people are properly protected when playing sport.
“We cannot eliminate all the risks and accidents do happen. Insurance certainly has an important role to play, but we also need better awareness and management of concussion at all levels in order to prevent minor head injuries having more serious consequences.
“Sportscover has a tradition of supporting charities with a sporting connection. The work Headway is doing in this important area makes the charity a perfect partner for us and we urge everyone with a passion for sport to offer their full support to this campaign and the charity in general.”
How you can help?
Are you involved in an amateur sports club or do you know someone that is? If so, Headway needs your help!
“Our aim is to get as many sports clubs as possible to sign our online pledge to be Concussion Aware,” said Peter McCabe. “We’re not asking people to gain medical knowledge and become experts in concussion.
“All we’re looking for is a commitment to taking the issue seriously and to help us instil a cultural change in grassroots sport.
“To do that we need people to spread the word and encourage clubs to visit the campaign website, watch the campaign film, take advantage of free materials, and sign the pledge.”
Four simple steps to be #ConcussionAware:
1. Visit www.concussionaware.org.uk
2. Sign the pledge to show your club has a responsible approach to concussion (and don’t forget to upload your club badge!)
3. Proudly display the Headway Concussion Aware digital badge on your club’s website.
4. Don’t forget social media! Use #ConcussionAware to help spread this important message, and don’t forget to tag @HeadwayUK!