Wednesday 16 January 2019

Concussion hits all youth sports, not just rugby

Consultant says suspected cases should be seen by a doctor

PARTICIPATION: Concussion risk is similar in all field sports. Stock picture
PARTICIPATION: Concussion risk is similar in all field sports. Stock picture

Alan O'Keeffe

Children who play rugby do not suffer higher rates of concussion than other field sports such as soccer, Gaelic football and hurling, according to a leading consultant.

Consultant paediatrician Dr Niamh Lynch said all the main field sports played by children had a fairly even spread of concussion cases.

She said it was important that any child suspected of having suffered a concussion should be seen by a doctor as but only a small percentage of children with concussion received medical attention.

Last week, research published in the The Lancet Psychiatry journal indicated that suffering concussion or other brain injuries as a young adult could increase the risk of dementia later in life by more than 60pc.

A study by the Washington School of Medicine in the US tracked almost three million adults over nearly 40 years. This indicated that those who suffered traumatic brain injuries, including concussion, when aged in their 20s were 63pc more likely to develop dementia than those who suffered no injuries.

When injuries by adults of all ages were taken into account, the risk of dementia increased overall by 24pc.

Separately, Dr Lynch (44), based at the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork, set up Ireland's first paediatric concussion clinic in 2016.

She said fear should not stop children playing sports.

"It's important for children to participate in sports. Fear of concussion should not be an impediment.

"Parents shouldn't be afraid - there's no big bad wolf," she said.

She referred solely to a different research project which stated there were between one and two million cases of concussion among 75 million young people who played sports in America.

This indicated there were probably 15,000 to 20,000 cases of concussion among players aged under 18 in Ireland every year.

But only 20pc of those young Irish people who suffered concussion would receive medical attention because the problem was "very under-recognised" in Ireland, she told the Sunday Independent.

Dr Lynch was one of several speakers at a sports medicine symposium at Thomond Park in Limerick yesterday, which was presented by the Bon Secours Health System which has five hospitals in Ireland.

According to Dr Lynch, there are many different types of concussion. Besides a young player receiving an obvious head injury or being knocked out, there are other instances where a young player might say he or she is fine and be allowed to keep playing.

But later in the game the player may show signs of being disorientated. It is important that if there is any suspicion of concussion, the player should be taken off the field immediately.

Allowing a player to continue to play for another five minutes or longer would mean it would take much longer, several more days, for the player to recover, she said.

Those players who are not treated for concussion "will end up feeling rotten for a week or more", and, for some, much longer.

This will cause them not to do well in school, have problems with their eye sight or dizziness and nausea, she said.

Physiotherapy was important for treating concussion, she said.

It involves moving the head around to help 'reset' the inner ear and exercises for the eyes.

Sports helmets prevent skull fracture and lacerations, but helmets do not prevent concussion as concussion involves sudden de-acceleration where the head stops and the brain crashes against the inside of the skull.

The symposium looked at the ethical dilemma facing coaches and medical professionals in determining the right time for professional athletes and amateur sports players to return to play.

Leading experts from the GAA, IRFU, the English Sports Institute, Bon Secours Health System medical professionals and academics explored topics from concussion injury to hip, ankle, knee and common sports-related hand injuries.

The symposium provided a launch pad for the Bon Secours Health System's new Sports Medicine Service.

The service is being developed by Bon Secours in Cork, Galway and Tralee and will be expanded subsequently nationwide.

Sunday Independent

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