Today is National Concussion Awareness Day in the U.S., which calls attention to the importance of recognizing and treating concussions and offers support and resources to those suffering from these traumas.
Unfortunately, concussions have become a global healthcare epidemic. Recent headlines and research show the trend in traumatic brain injuries rising. In elite English rugby, the 2020-21 season had the highest incidence of concussion since records started in 2002 with 22.2 concussions per 1,000 hours of playing time—this despite observing a decrease in the incidence of all injuries. While the uptick in injuries may be due in part to greater awareness, other factors cannot be ignored such as increased competitiveness, the pressure to perform, and the growing intensity of practice and game play.
While many people associate physical symptoms (dizziness, nausea, headache) with concussions, it’s important to watch out for emotional symptoms as well such as moodiness or “brain fog.” The tricky part is that many of these symptoms are not specific to concussions, so heightened awareness and continuing education is important.
Proactive Detection of At-Risk Athletes
In the world of sport, head injuries are practically inevitable. But what if there was a way to identify which athletes are at greater risk of a concussion before something happens?
Today, teams are not only looking at data to determine when a player faces a higher risk of injury, but also to understand the underlying causes of this risk in order to take preemptive action.
- Is different/better protective equipment needed?
- What needs to be done for players with Second Impact syndrome?
- How should we customize a program for Player X to accommodate their unique requirements? (e.g., ADHD, gender).
Data can also be aggregated and analyzed to better inform concussion recovery times and formulate clinical recovery strategies for RTP (or Return to Life). This is a big step forward from the “olden days” when it was believed that treatment for concussions was simply time and rest.
While there have been steps forward, when I think back to my time at Stanford completing research on RTP protocols, I remember the data collection effort for both the athletes and the athletic trainers challenging in practice. Completing concussion baselines, and post concussion assessments multiple times throughout the concussion, inputting these reports as well as regular communication with the team doctors, can take time away from the relationship between athlete and practitioner. It’s one thing to have good quality data, but it’s another to really provide a high level of care for the athletes, ultimately using the data to strengthen instinct.
Perhaps most important—and where we can all take action today—is creating on-going conversations and awareness around this critical topic. There are a number of educational resources and opportunities to get involved on the National Concussion Awareness Day, NCAA concussion, and CDC sites.
- Create awareness around the severity and short- and long-term impact of brain injuries, so that athletes are more inclined to recognize and report concussions (e.g., common concussion symptoms like headache, fatigue, etc., may be disregarded).
- Break down silos and promote cross-organizational collaboration so that medical/coaching/athletic trainers all have a common, holistic view of each athlete.
- Shift focus from concussion management and treatment, to concussion prevention.
This blog is part of an ongoing series where we share valuable insights from our team of Performance Experts. These experts have extensive experience working with hundreds of elite teams around the world and hold diverse backgrounds in coaching, medical, sports science, and data science.
To learn more about how analytics can assist with sport-related injuries, contact us today at email@example.com.