Don’t knock the concussion issue on the head

JonathanDemos Roar Rookie

By JonathanDemos, JonathanDemos is a Roar Rookie

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    It’s official: concussion in sport is a very real and serious issue. Last week’s episode of Four Corners on the ABC exposed the dangers and ramifications of concussion, especially for those athletes who have been concussed on multiple occasions.

    The revelations from Four Corners, while not completely ground-breaking, address the harsh reality confronting not only professional athletes but even for those playing sport at a grassroots level. Remember, these are people who are not getting paid to play but just taking part for the love of the game. Is it really worth putting themselves in potential danger?

    A few weeks ago, Tacklegate took Melbourne and the AFL world by storm. It seemed everybody had an opinion. Melbourne Demons youngster Jack Trengove received a three week ban for a ‘sling’ tackle on Adelaide youngster Patrick Dangerfield, who was concussed as a result of the incident.

    The controversial decision made way for a myriad of calls labelling the game ‘soft’. Trengove’s teammate, James Frawley sarcastically tweeted “I thought my mate played for the Melbourne Demons … not the Melbourne Vixens!”.

    Such declarations do no-one any good and are simply unfounded. They do not address the wider implications surrounding the issue of concussion which is becoming an ever-present concern for all sporting codes.

    The AFL’s Match Review Panel, Tribunal and Appeals Board all heard the case as the Demons attempted to overturn the decision against their player. The same result occurred every time. The three-week ban stood. The correct decision was made.

    The AFL, like all sporting competitions around the world has a duty of care for the health and safety of their players. In recent years they have made a conscious decision to protect the head, making it sacrosanct.

    The AFL’s new concussion laws implemented this year display the seriousness of the issue at hand.

    The laws prohibit a player from coming back on the ground after being declared ‘concussed’ by their club doctor.

    Some say that club doctors are being put under too much pressure when diagnosing the health and wellbeing of their players, having to weigh up the potential ramifications on the scoreboard should his side be left a man down for the rest of the match.

    To date, we have seen no reason to believe that any such considerations are being made by club doctors and frankly it’s hard to believe that they would put the four points at stake ahead of the wellbeing of a player.

    Sporting administrators throughout Australia need to be continually addressing the issue of concussion and the impacts it can have on players, especially after their playing careers. Andrew Demetriou and company at AFL House, along with David Gallop at the NRL and John O’Neill from Australian Rugby Union, could do a lot worse than to look to the US for guidance.

    Just a few months ago former NFL player Dave Duerson committed suicide at the age of 50. His final note to loved ones requested his brain be donated to the NFL for research.

    After Duerson’s brain had undergone an autopsy by Boston University researchers it was declared that the former Chicago Bears safety suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

    The condition has the potential to affect an individual’s judgement, memory or mood. In the past, such concussion-related illnesses have been linked solely to boxers. It is now creeping into codes of football.

    The Boston University School of Medicine has tested the brains of fifteen past players. Fourteen of them had CTE. The university has 128 brain donation commitments from NFL players to their research in the future. An increased sample will no doubt provide more credibility to the research and sample the university are examining.

    Whichever way you look at it, the statistics are sobering – and let us not forget that these guys wear helmets.

    America and those at NFL headquarters are way ahead of their Australian counterparts on the issue. Not learning from them could become a huge mistake for Australia’s football codes.

    Many may think that this is an over-reaction to one solitary incident where a player has been concussed. It is not. Earlier in the Super Rugby season, Waratah Berrick Barnes was forced out of action for a large portion of the season following multiple concussions.

    Adelaide Crow utility Scott Stevens is another who has missed a considerable amount of football this season following a concussion. Gladly he looks to be on the road to recovery.

    It is not just the immediate impact on players either. The long term effects seem to be the most worrying.

    So Messrs, Demetriou, Gallop and O’Neill, it’s over to you.

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    The Crowd Says (15)

    • June 4th 2011 @ 1:24pm
      bennalong said | June 4th 2011 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

      I cannot argue about the seriousness of the issue.

      But the point must be made that the science is poor, especially in terms of predicting outcomes for individuals

      There is no doubt that head injuries do damage but we now live in a world that responds to ‘cover-your-arse’ decision making based only on the viewpoint of the physician/bureaucrat who finds himself (and now I have to add “herself”) in the spotlight rather than the principle of the Rights of the individual to know the facts and to decide for him/her self.

      It is easy to attack the body-contact sports like Rugby League,Rugby Union and AFL but some of the better Minimal Brain Injury data has come from the Netherlands and it relates to the dancing game of soccer. There was found to be a high rate of minimal brain injury in A-grade players who regularly ‘head’ the ball.
      At the time US junior soccer came up with a padded ‘headband’ to address the issue but this merely exemplifies my point

      Like the helmets in gridiron it looks like protection. The bureaucrats looked good.
      BUT, as the US doco lifted by “4 Corners” showed, it doesn’t work.!

      In the case of gridiron the helmet is an attacking weapon so it is used aggressively and often,… to batter opponents. But physics dictates that the wearer still sustains the shock of impact.
      Likewise, in the case of the soccer head ‘protection’ it looks good but encourages the kids to use it despite its effectiveness being questionable.

      The starting point may be better testing for all players who sustain head knocks, with the emphasis on personal responsibility to report symptoms when they occur. I emphasise head knocks, not concussion.

    • June 4th 2011 @ 2:44pm
      p.Tah said | June 4th 2011 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

      good to see the IRB is taking the issue seriously. Hopefully all teams (professional and amateur) use the guidelines.

      http://www.irb.com/newsmedia/mediazone/pressrelease/newsid=2043181.html#irb+tackles+concussion+players+first

    • June 4th 2011 @ 7:06pm
      CizzyRascal said | June 4th 2011 @ 7:06pm | ! Report

      I wrote an article on this subject about a month ago and didn’t get much reaction. Like I say, I think a lot of people are doing an impression of ostriches on this subject and burying their heads in the sand.

    • Roar Pro

      June 5th 2011 @ 11:08am
      KTinHK said | June 5th 2011 @ 11:08am | ! Report

      After watching Ben Lucas taken from the field with legs like jelly after a head knock during last night’s Red’s v Brumbies game only to be brought back on 20 minutes later, I find it difficult to believe that rugby administrators are taking this issue seriously.

      I wrote about the case of Berrick Barnes previously: http://kenandartsrugbyblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/concussion_31.html

    • Roar Pro

      June 5th 2011 @ 11:39am
      KTinHK said | June 5th 2011 @ 11:39am | ! Report

      I forgot to mention….. Digby Ioane in the same game…….. felled by a dangerous swinging arm to the head, stretchered unconscious to an ambulance, and no card, not even a penalty against the offending player. We presume the offender will be cited and suspended……….? Or is a swinging arm to the head that renders a person incapacitated considered an accident?

    • Roar Pro

      June 5th 2011 @ 1:03pm
      KTinHK said | June 5th 2011 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

      Just read that he got a 1 week suspension. What a deterrant…

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