Head injuries in sport – let’s not forget our grassroots sports

Being a lifelong Gooner, I was bitterly disappointed with how the team played against Southampton where we drew 2-2 against them at the Emirates (let’s not talk about the City game…)

What was even more concerning about that game was the way Southampton full-back, Jan Bednarek, fell following a challenge. He landed awkwardly on his upper-back/ neck area when jumping to win a header. After the challenge his bench were clearly alerted to a possible head injury and concussion.

To their credit, the Southampton medical staff took the immediate decision to substitute him and remove him from the field of play. Bednarek clearly unhappy with the decision protested with his manager and his bench. It was later clarified that his substitution was not a ‘concussion substitute’. Whether this was a genuine concussion was neither here or there for me. It was clearly visible that the player landed awkwardly and a serious head injury was feared.

The FA introduced concussion guidelines which stresses the principle of “If in doubt, sit them out” (IIDSTO). This incident was a good example of the Southampton team applying IIDSTO. There have been some recent examples where professional footballers have been involved in strong challenges leading to a collision or blow to the head but were not immediately taken out of the game as a precaution. So it was pleasing to see the team stepping in to protect Bednarek as they did.

The safeguarding measures for head injuries in sport are under the microscope. Professional clubs and governing bodies have the resources available to keep up to date with advancements in medicine/science and take safe-guarding measures. But what about our grassroots sports? Most of the focus so far has been on elite level football and rugby. There clearly is a risk of head injuries in grassroots sport involving children where preventive measures and safeguarding is also needed. However, taking a step back, there is a lot more to be done with educating children and responsible adults involved with grassroots sports.

It is positive that the government have now introduced the first ever official UK guidance for concussion in grassroots sports. A link to the guidance can be found in these concussion guidelines.

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