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New concussion guidelines for grassroots sport

The guidance comes on the back of the Government's 2021 Action Plan on Concussion and builds on Scotland's existing guidelines for all types and levels of sport.

2nd May 2023

Anyone with a suspected concussion while playing grassroots sport should be immediately removed from danger of further contact and call 111 within 24 hours, according to new guidelines published by the Government and the Sport and Recreation Alliance.

Developed by an expert panel of domestic and international clinicians and academics in neurology and sports medicine, the guidelines are the first UK-wide Concussion Guidelines for Grassroots Sport.

They will help players, coaches, parents, schools, national governing bodies and sports administrators to identify, manage and prevent concussions.

A medic tests a rugby player for concussion at the side of the pitch

And our executive director of partnerships, Phil Smith, believes the guidelines are a big sign of progress.

“The publication of this guidance is extremely welcome in ensuring that the hundreds of thousands of people taking part in grassroots sport every single week will be better protected from the potentially devastating effects of concussion," he said.

“We want people of all ages to take part in sport and physical activity sessions that are safe and thanks to this guidance, everyone involved in grassroots sport, including participants, parents, teachers and administrators will now be able to improve their understanding of concussion and have access to expert advice.”

Along with the publication of the guidelines comes a request to all those involved in grassroots sport to read the guidance in order to:

  • recognise the signs of concussion
  • remove anyone suspected of being concussed immediately
  • return safely to daily activity, education/work and, ultimately, sport.

To assist with identifying a concussion, the guidelines recommend calling NHS 111 within 24 hours of a potential concussion, as well as resting and sleeping as much as needed for the first 24-48 hours and avoiding screen time.

Anyone suspected of a concussion should not return to sport within 24 hours and then follow a graduated return to their education/work and exercise/sport programme.

While if a concussion is confirmed they should avoid returning to matches with a risk of contact injury for a minimum of 21 days.

They should also then, to reduce the risks of a slow recovery, further brain injury and longer-term problems, to return to activities such as work, education or sport in a gradual manner.

If symptoms persist for more than four weeks, the individual should seek further guidance and assessment by an appropriate healthcare professional.

The publication of this guidance is extremely welcome in ensuring that the hundreds of thousands of people taking part in grassroots sport every single week will be better protected from the potentially devastating effects of concussion.

Phil Smith

Executive director of partnerships, Sport England

These guidelines follow the Government’s 2021 Action Plan on Concussion, which committed to introduce a national approach to help prevent concussion and brain injury in sport through a combination of improved research and new technologies.

And for Lisa Wainwright, the chief executive of the Sport and Recreation Alliance (SRA) – who led the development of the guidelines – it’s an important step.

“Concussion is a serious issue and we must always strive to make sport as safe as possible for all those who take part at a grassroots level in clubs, schools and many other settings every week across the UK,” she said.

“The Sport and Recreation Alliance is pleased to have supported the development of these guidelines which will ensure there is a consistent, evidence-based approach to concussion in sport across all four home nations. 

“When it comes to concussion, the message is clear: if in doubt, sit them out.”

The guidelines were developed by:

  • The SRA
  • Professor James Calder – chair of the expert drafting group
  • Laurence Geller – the Government’s adviser on concussion in sport

The expert drafting group used existing field research to produce a consistent and preventative approach for whole of the UK and this guidance builds upon the world-leading work already done in Scotland, who were the first country in the world to produce guidelines covering all types and levels of sport, which was last updated in March 2021.

Concussions Guidelines for Grassroots Sport

Read the guidance

Further reaction

Stuart Andrew - Sports Minister

“Sport keeps us healthy and active but it is not without risk and major injuries to the head can and do happen.

“Research has shown the importance of fast and effective tailored treatment and we are issuing expert guidance to help people spot and treat head injuries. 

“Whether used in a local leisure centre during a swimming lesson or on a village green during a cricket match, the guidance will make a real difference to people’s lives.”

Professor Chris Whitty - Chief Medical Officer for England and Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Government

“These guidelines help players, referees, schools, parents and others balance the substantial health and social benefits and enjoyment from taking part in sport with minimising the rare but serious and potentially lifelong effects of concussion.”

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