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Heads Up: How is head injury treated in the world of sport? - Rujina Begum, Bolt Burdon Kemp

27/06/19. There has been a lot of media attention in the last few months about head injuries occurring during sports games. Whilst it was visibly distressing to see a head injury occurring during the Champions League Final, what was even more traumatising was the fact that the player was allowed to return to the pitch moments later. It is true that there are different rules for sports such as football, rugby, boxing and so on with regard to head injuries and how they decide whether or not a player can return to a game. However, only a few days before, during a Premier League Game, a player who also suffered a head injury was automatically substituted and not allowed to return to the pitch. The same sport, a few days apart but with different decisions made. These were both televised games and therefore a large number of the nation witnessed head injuries occurring but with two different outcomes.

Concussions are a type of head injury which we hear of during sports games. Greater awareness needs to be raised about head injury so that we can protect our sports players – whether it’s a professional or amateur game or even a kick around on a Sunday afternoon, the nation should know that a head injury, regardless of the severity, is still a head injury - with possibly long-lasting effects that could require ongoing treatment and support.

Symptoms of a concussion can include dizziness, balance problems, headaches, feeling sick or vomiting, feeling confused, memory loss, balance issues, and changes in vision. Signs of a concussion usually appear within a few minutes or hours of a head injury, therefore seeking urgent medical treatment may increase the chances of a diagnosis. However, some of the symptoms of concussion are subtle and these may not be picked up by medical professionals early on. They may become apparent over time and family and friends may start noticing changes relating to concentration levels or behavioural issues. Immediate and ongoing assessments are therefore required and it seems shocking that some officials feel that a pitch side assessment is adequate.

As a lawyer specialising in brain injuries, it is worrying that officials and medically trained professionals would not take extra care and time when dealing with head injuries. In failing to do so, the nation is likely to do the same. We need to get the ball rolling in raising awareness and start reducing injury time.

Rujina Begum is a Solicitor in the Adult Brain Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp.

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