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Concussion in sport: debunking the myths



Concussion in sport: debunking the myths

Physiotherapy New Zealand says that despite a high media profile there are still misconceptions around concussion in sport.

Professor Tony Schneiders, a physiotherapist and sports-medicine researcher from Central Queensland University, says a common myth is that you need to be knocked out to suffer concussion.

“In reality only an estimated 10% of concussions actually result in unconsciousness.”

“Concussion myths like this need to be debunked so that as many concussions as possible can be identified and managed accordingly.”

ACC figures for 2013 show there were more than 5500 claims for sport-related concussion or brain injuries, and Schneiders adds that this is likely to be an under-representation of the true number as many go unidentified or unreported.

Schneiders says that there has also been much hype around second-impact syndrome where it has been thought that two concussions in quick succession can result in serious and sometimes fatal consequences.

“Fortunately there is no proof that this is actually the case, however an initial concussion does significantly increase the risk of a subsequent one if the athlete has not fully recovered.”

Physiotherapy New Zealand President Ian d’Young says concussion is often associated with full-contact sports such as rugby, but can occur in any sport or activity so it’s important everyone is aware of the signs and symptoms.

Immediate signs of concussion can include alterations in balance, slurred speech, poor memory and inability to focus and concentrate.

Schneiders says the best treatment advice he can give to anyone who believes they may have been concussed is to seek appropriate advice.

“Every player suspected of sustaining a concussion should be immediately removed from play and assessed by a medical doctor as soon as possible. They should also gain medical clearance before returning to sport, activity, school or work.”

“Following adequate rest, a graduated return to activity and sport while monitoring signs and symptoms is at the centre of effective concussion management.”

The Australian-based Schneiders will be visiting New Zealand in September to speak at the national physiotherapy conference around debunking some of the myths associated with head injury in sport. He will also outline the current best practice identification and management, including the SCAT3 tool – a global tool for identifying, assessing and managing athletes who have sustained a concussion.

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