Link between sport and ABI is moving up the agenda

Two major sporting organisations have been accused of failing to understand the significance of head injury on the pitch in recent days.

Today (Monday), the chief medical officer of Fifa joined our friends at brain injury charity Headway in criticising Tottenham Hotspur for allowing goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to stay on the field after a serious blow to the head on Saturday.
Young man playing rugby
The decision was branded “irresponsible and cavalier”, follows fresh concerns from Dr Barry O’Driscoll, who last year quit his post on the International Rugby Board because he felt measures to protect players from head injury didn’t go far enough. While these stories may appear to focus on a distant world of elite athletes, the messages here are of importance to any of us with an interest in acquired brain injury. Many parents of children with ABI will recognise the symptoms reported by players in the National Football League (NFL) in America, where there is a groundswell of action and calls for changes to the way players are protected. These players talk about serious memory problems, changes in behaviour and long-term impacts on their emotional wellbeing – the very difficulties that parents of children with acquired brain injury deal with on a daily basis. The link between sport and brain injury has received much more exposure in the USA, where the NFL recently commissioned a $75,000-dollar report, which found that young high school football players are nearly twice as likely to sustain a brain injury than their peers. This report has been widely-publicised, potentially allowing more parents and young people to make informed choices about participating in high contact sports. It also found that many young players didn’t report their difficulties following concussion through fear they might be prevented from playing, and perhaps there will be parents who recognise this kind of concern about ‘owning up’ to an injury on the part of their own children. But this action on the part of the NFL took years of campaigning from the indefatigable Chris Nowinski and his associates (their incredible journey is documented in the 2012 documentary Head Games. Elsewhere, the My Head Hurts blog – also based in the US – has offered insight into the lives of people recovering from sports head injuries, while the acclaimed documentary The Crash Reel (broadcast on Sky tomorrow night) is a moving account of the slow recovery of pro snowboarder Kevin Pearce from a traumatic brain injury. We can only hope this greater understanding of brain injury makes its way over the Atlantic. Here in the UK, Children’s Trust supporters James Cracknell and Richard Hammond have been courageous and dignified in talking about their own recovery from injuries. But the experience of medical professionals in some of our best-loved national games suggests we are still some way behind the States in making the connection between sport and injury.  My Head Hurts The Crash Reel
Share page
Print page
Follow us