Head injuries in Football

No long-term risk from concussion in football

Football Injuries to the head

Multiple concussions do not damage footballers’ brains: that’s the encouraging conclusion of a new study from Australia, which directly contradicts the findings of previous research. Earlier studies had suggested that footballers with a history of concussion show cognitive (thinking) impairment by comparison with athletes with no such history.

In the current study, 521 male Australian rules footballers completed a brief medical history questionnaire and then performed a series of six cognitive tasks assessing reaction time, decision-making, attention, learning and memory.

For analysis purposes, the athletes were divided into five groups, as follows:

  • No history of concussion (244 subjects);
  • One concussion (95);
  • Two concussions (72);
  • Three concussions (48);
  • Four or more concussions (62).

The researchers found no association between the number of previous concussions and performance in the cognitive tasks.
‘Evidence based reviews of the literature suggest that sustaining several concussions over a sporting career does not necessarily result in permanent neurological damage or increased risk of future concussion,’ the researchers point out.

They conclude: ‘These findings support the current consensus management guidelines proposing that return to play should be determined by clinical evaluation of the individual athletes rather than by categorisation of the athlete according to their self-reported history of concussion…’

Br J Sports Med 2006; 40:550-551

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