Doha, Qatar: Aspetar, the orthopaedic sports medicine hospital in Qatar, urged healthcare professionals to adopt stronger guideline implementations to effectively diagnosis concussion injuries during play, particularly for incidents involving footballers at the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Russia.
A number of widely reported clashes between players in recent games have sharpened a focus on the issue, prompting debate and discussion between pundits and commentators around the world.
The implementation of stronger guidelines would also help minimise the risk of long-term damage to players following head injuries.
Speaking about the topic, Dr. Louis Holtzhausen, a Sports Medicine Physician at Aspetar with more than 25 years of experience treating players in athletics, rugby, cricket, hockey and the South African Olympic team, said: “It can be very difficult sometimes to spot a suspected concussion, particularly in the heat of the moment. Sometimes there can be obvious symptoms such as headache, vomiting or loss of consciousness or loss of memory, it can be much easier to spot and the player himself might sometimes ask for medical assistance. On the other hand, there are subtle symptoms that can be difficult to diagnose such as loss of balance or disorientation.
“It’s important to realise that subtle neurological changes can make a very big difference in performance, especially on the elite level, and it could be the difference between winning or losing.”
“The solution for this difficult problem stars with education at different levels, first of all at the executive level with the decision makers in sport. They must understand what the medical and sports consequences of concussion can be.”
“Then there needs to be an education awareness on the operational level for coaches and referees. Any manager or coach has the right to know that his star player might not be able to perform at his best when he’s concussed. Players must also be educated.”
“Then after education, the contingency plan should be made on how to manage suspected concussion in any given sport. Sport like rugby are leading the way and making extensive use of video coverage with independent match day doctors and concussion evaluation.”
He concluded: “Here at Aspetar, we go to a lot of trouble to educate as many as possible, very often through workshops, we also provide guidance and support for doctors who need advice on concussion management.”
Aspetar’s advanced protocol helps identify and treat concussion injuries in sports, on and off the field, and equips healthcare providers and team doctors to play an essential role in protecting athletes, since concussion signs are not always easily identifiable. It is specifically designed to only allow safe return to play under universally accepted guidelines.
The protocol has been developed over a number of years by some of the world’s foremost experts in sports medicine and concussion-related issues. It has the potential to significantly improve decision-making and concussion management in games at all levels.
This follows a widespread discussion in the media related to a number of significant and troubling incidents in Russia. Iceland defender Ragnar Sigurdsson was struck in the back of the head in the 49th-minute during Iceland’s 2-0 defeat by Nigeria. He then came back on five minutes later with a bandage, only to be substituted in the 65th minute.
Earlier in the tournament, Morocco overlooked guidelines for a minimum six-day break before returning to play after Watford's Nordin Amrabat suffered concussion and memory loss following a blow to the head. Despite this, he still started against Portugal.
Aspetar has taken a lead on concussion management for a number of years now. It organised the first concussion symposium in the Middle East, titled ‘Aspetar Sport Related Concussion Workshop for Healthcare Providers’ following the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. This tackled the latest issues related to concussion and offered comprehensive training to healthcare providers on Aspetar’s protocol to help identify and treat concussion injuries in sports, on and off the field.
Aspetar collaborates with the Concussion in Sport Group (CiSG), the authors of the consensus statement and the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT), as well as with UK-based Elite Sport Concussion Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) Clinic at the Institute for Sport, Exercise and Health (ISEH), and Weill-Cornell Medical College in Qatar.