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Concussion: if in doubt, sit them out

By Matthew Robinson-Storey

Published In: Brain and Spinal Injury

New guidance has been published to help raise awareness of the need to protect grass roots sports players from the dangers of concussion injuries.

The guidance, published by the UK Government and the Sport Recreation Alliance is not medical advice, but does provide advice on recognising and dealing with concussion. 

doctor checking for concussion

What is Concussion?

While it is a widely used term, ‘concussion’ is not limited to a loss of consciousness. However, any loss of consciousness following a head injury is always  a concussion.

Concussion can impact people in the following different ways:

  • Physically, such as through headaches and dizziness
  • Through their mental processing, such not being able to think clearly
  • Through their mood, including short tempers and emotional states
  • Through their sleep, either stopping someone from sleeping or causing them to sleep too much.

The guidance provides clarity over the visible warning signs of a concussion, and the steps to take where concussion is suspected. This includes things the player should do (such as rest and sleep as required in the first 24-48 hours). It also advises on things they should avoid (such as limiting electronic screen time). There are some listed ‘red flags’ which should lead to emergency care being sought. Guidance is provided for coaches, teacher, and volunteers, as well as parents and carers, and fellow players.

What is the advice?

The headlines from this new guidance are:

  • Any suspicion of concussion should lead to the player being immediately removed from play
  • No-one should return to competition, training or Physical Education (PE) lessons within 24 hours of a suspected concussion
  • Anyone suspected of sustaining a concussion should be assessed by an appropriate onsite Healthcare Professional or by contacting the NHS by calling 111 within 24 hours of the injury
  • A minimum period of 21 days between the concussion and return to competitive sport is advised.

Comments on the guidance

Chris Bryant MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), has said: “At long last we’re beginning to take this issue seriously. Sport is good for you, but a brain injury can completely change your life. I hope every sporting organisation will take these new protocols to heart.”

Sports Minister Stuart Andrew said: “Sport keeps us healthy and active, but it is not without risk and major injuries to the head can and do happen. “Research has shown the importance of fast and effective tailored treatment and we are issuing expert guidance to help people spot and treat head injuries. Whether used in a local leisure centre during a swimming lesson or on a village green during a cricket match, the guidance will make a real difference to people’s lives.”

While the guidance is welcomed there are concerns about the implementation of the protocols. Dr Michael Grey, UKABIF Trustee said: “There are still gaps in the guidelines and there are real worries that many healthcare providers are ill equipped to recognise concussion and have little knowledge of managing concussion.”

For the full report published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Acquired Brain Injury here .

Headway , the brain injury charity, is also calling for a public health campaign to add weight to the guidance. Read about it here .

If you think you have been affected by a sporting injury caused by aggressive or negligent play, or if you underwent treatment for an injury you suffered as a player that did not have the intended outcome, please do get in touch with us to discuss any potential legal claim we might be able to assist with. Call 01302 320621 or email

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Matthew is a Paralegal in our Medical Negligence team, assisting a team of case handling Solicitors.

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