Can we reduce the risk of concussions? How?

Apparently there is no new evidence that current strategies utilized to prevent concussions are as effectives as we were hoping said Dr. Carrie Esopenko, PhD researcher at Baycrest Canada. In her article, she also sites the latest efforts in the industry and strategies that work and we can all be taking in consideration in our prevention programs, who is doing what and technology available.

Just what are Effective Concussion Risk-Reduction Strategies?

Carrie Esopenko, PhD

Recently, the News has been fraught with headlines that we are facing a concussion epidemic. Every morning, it seems that we are waking up to yet another story about a high profile athlete being sidelined with a concussion. What may be worse is that these news stories are not just limited to high profile athletes. An ever increasing number of youth are also being sidelined with these injuries .So the questions we now face as clinicians, scientists, coaches, trainers, athletes, and parents are: If we know there is a concussion epidemic, what can we do? How can we prevent these invisible injuries, not only in high-profile athletes, but in our children?

There have been many strides in the right direction with respect to prevention of concussions in sport. For example, we see: equipment changes, sport-specific rule changes, and certain states implementing legislation that regulates who can determine when children can return to play following a concussion. Although these changes are definitely good moves, one must wonder, with the increasing number of concussions, are these strategies working? Recently, Benson and colleagues (2013; see citation below), carried out a review of current research examining the effectiveness of concussion risk-reduction strategies. The authors identified a number of risk-reduction strategies discussed in the literature, such as rules changes, legislation, neck strength, and head gear used in contact sports. Unfortunately, they found “little new evidence for successful interventions to reduce concussion” (pg. 5). There is no new evidence that the strategies we are using to prevent concussions are doing what we want them to. However, given the advancement in technology and techniques used in brain science, hope is not all lost that one day we will be able prevent concussion in sports. We must remember that the implementation of concussion legislation is still new, and not all sports have taken the initiative to make rule changes that would decrease head impacts, meaning that not much time has passed to see the effects of these changes.

So let this be the take home message… Although we are more aware of concussions and the prevention strategies we are developing are steps in the right direction, the strategies we have been using to prevent concussions may not be working… yet. More research needs to be done to better understand, not only the synergistic effects these changes have, but concussions themselves, before we truly prevent them.


For an review of current concussion risk-reduction strategies and future directions on how to develop better prevention strategies, check out the following  article:

Benson BW, McIntosh AS, Maddocks D, et al. What are the most effective risk-reduction strategies in sport concussion? Br J Sports Med 2013; 47: 321–326.

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