People who show any signs of concussion playing community sport wouldn’t be allowed to return to action for a minimum of three weeks under new guidelines set to be embraced by codes around Australia.
The new concussion guidelines have been developed and released by the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in co-operation with Sports Medicine Australia, doctors and physiotherapists and align with those adopted in the UK and New Zealand.
Wile the AIS has no power to enforce the new rules, a wide range of sports have already indicated they will adopt the new guidelines as additions to existing policies regarding concussion.
Elite sports including the AFL, NRL and Cricket Australia have their own concussion protocols and policies that continue to evolve.
Under the AIS framework, competitors would be able to return to light exercise 24-48 hours after suffering a concussion but would have to wait 14 days without symptoms before returning to contact training.
A minimum period of 21 days has been recommended before athletes return to competitive sport.
The guidelines prioritise the concussed person’s return to work or school over a return to competitive contact sport.
“There are two groups where we need to exercise an abundance of caution in relation to concussion, and that is people who are growing and have developing brains and those adults who are playing in a community setting where they don’t have good access to a healthcare practitioner or support,” AIS chief medical officer David Hughes said.
“In those cases, we need to err on the side of caution. We need to simplify what happens at the youth and community setting. The concern is only amplified when there is inconsistency of message or lack of clarity. At the moment, we have a situation where a lot of sports have different rules and guidelines around return to sport after concussion.
“What we are really striving for there is clarity of message and consistency of message.
“Teachers and coaches and officials are desperately trying to do the right thing by their charges but it gets very confusing. That only feeds into confusion and anxiety around concussion.”
The AIS also recommends schools and clubs appoint a “concussion officer” who would respond to and record incidents and ensure appropriate action is taken.
The new guidelines are part of an updated AIS concussion health position statement.