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Newcastle
Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Athletes face the school of concussion

A sniff of smelling salts and back you go. That’s how 55-year-old Kotara Bears Rugby League Club’s Craig Woolcock remembers concussion back in the day.

“I was 19 and got knocked out cold,” he said.

“I can remember being given smelling salts, getting back up and running around again.

“The next thing I remember was being in the change rooms.

“It’s not a very nice feeling that’s for sure.”

Dizziness, confusion, headaches, nausea, irritability, confusion, memory loss and light sensitivity are all symptoms associated with concussion.

With collision sport season fast approaching, leading Newcastle brain trauma expert Dr Andrew Gardner warned concussion should not be ignored.

“By definition a concussion is any disturbance in normal neurological function,” Dr Gardner said.

“So, something as simple as an athlete reporting that they had ‘seeing stars’ or had ‘blurred vision’ or ‘feel pressure in the head’ meets criteria for concussion.”

Newcastle sporting clubs are heeding his warnings.

Mr Woolcock said his junior rugby club was actively working to reduce the risk through altered play and protective headgear.

“At age five, a concussion is not likely as the rules are designed for safe play,” he said.

“No contact above the shoulder are the rules and referees are on the lookout for risky situations.

“During tackles, a child can submit, and the referee will stop play.

“This is designed to keep all the kids safe.

“We also make it mandatory for that age group to wear headgear,” he said

Cardiff Hawks AFL Club spokesman Callan Buchan agreed modified play and education were paramount in reducing incidences of concussion.

“More progress has been made with changing the way a game is played by training players better and introducing or tightening rules to reduce the risk of head trauma,” he said.

Mr Buchan said the club was dismissive of headgear.

“We won’t actively promote it to parents,” he said.

“We have found that it provides a false sense of security and actually results in further head contact related issues as well as an increased risk of heat exhaustion.”

Dr Gardner also warned against relying on headgear.

“At present the currently available commercial products do not mitigate the risk of concussion,” he said.

“At the community level all concussion policy strongly advocates for a recognise, remove, refer policy,” he said.

“That means if there is any doubt about whether or not an athlete has sustained a concussion they should immediately be removed from play, not permitted to return to play the same day, and need to be seen as soon as possible by a medical practitioner.”

Written by Rebecca Riddle.

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