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New concussion rules for Australian sport

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Concussion rules in Australia have been strengthened under a new guideline tailored to junior and community sport.
Concussion rules in Australia

Australia will introduce new concussion guidelines in line with regulations in the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) protocols, released today, set out procedures for youth and community sports groups in the event of a concussion.

The guidelines say anyone under 19 should wait at least two weeks after concussion symptoms subside before returning to training, and at least three weeks before returning to competitive contact sport.

Concussion rules in Australia

‘Concussion’ is a traumatic brain injury usually caused by a blow to the head and often associated with contact sports, like football codes.

Severe concussions can lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disorder that can cause severe mental ill-health.

Signs of CTE often don’t show up until years after injuries occur. It has been diagnosed in many former athletes, including former AFL and AFLW players, who have died by suicide. CTE can only be definitively diagnosed posthumously.

Concussion for junior athletes

The guidelines set out a framework for the best practices to respond to concussions.

The AIS recommended “a more conservative approach” to concussion recovery for junior athletes, noting that “children and adolescents take longer to recover from concussion than adults”.

It suggested 24-48 hours of rest before slowly easing into everyday activities. If symptoms ease, low-intensity exercise is encouraged in the days after a concussion before a gradual return to work or school.

Return to sport after concussion

The guidelines recommend health professionals clear athletes of all ages before returning to training.

High-performance adult athletes can be cleared for an earlier return if approved by a concussion rehabilitation specialist.

However, the AIS advised a more conservative approach for athletes who experience multiple concussions within a short time.

Multiple knocks

The AIS didn’t detail specific next steps for athletes with multiple concussions, due to the distinct nature of each case.

However, it recommended a “starting point” of 28 days symptom-free before returning to contact training. It called for athletes who suffer two concussions within three months to be banned from play for six weeks.

It also urged any athlete with more than two concussions within 12 months to consider skipping a season of contact sport.

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