Concussion in sport – what’s the current state of play?

Sport is an important part of many of our lives and taking part in physical activity is crucial to our health. However, exercise and competitive sport is not without risk and there has been a great concern in recent years about the effects of some sports on brain health.

While there has never been so much information in the media about sports-related concussion, and barely a week passes without some concerning incident regarding this injury, the overall picture can be unclear including how concussions can actually affect those who receive them. This makes it very difficult for athletes and parents of athletes to decide if it is safe to take part in some sports or what the risks to their brain health may be. Sport governing bodies are also facing intense pressure to change the inherent nature of sport.

Hoping to shine the clear light of current evidence-based research on concussion and its effects, Trinity College Dublin has organised a public lecture on concussion featuring two of the US’s most eminent researchers on the subject. The lecture takes place on Thursday 9th November 2017 at 6 pm in the Science Gallery.

Doctors Steven Broglio and Mike McCrea are international experts in sports concussion and were part of the expert panel that formed the 2016 Berlin Consensus Statement that informs all clinicians how to manage concussion. They are also leading a major study with colleagues called the CARE Consortium examining 37,000 athlete participants, which is the biggest concussion study worldwide. They will be giving an update on the status of the project and be sharing some of their early findings with the audience.

Drs Broglio and McCrea are visiting Dublin as expert advisors to the Trinity College Dublin Concussion Research Group which is involved in a series of important concussion research projects. The first is with Leinster Rugby and looks at blood biomarkers in concussion. The second research project is also with Leinster Rugby and with the Irish Rugby Union Players Association (IRUPA) looking at the effects of concussion on long-term health in older and retired professional rugby players.

Dr Fiona Wilson, Associate Professor & Chartered Physiotherapist in the School of Medicine, Trinity and organiser of this event said: “There is a lot of information in the media about concussion although contradictory information makes it really difficult to be sure where the real evidence lies. It is really great to welcome these eminent researchers to present the present state of understanding of this topic based on their significant and internationally respected bodies of research. There is expected to be a lively panel discussion and Q&A session with recently retired Leinster Rugby player Isaac Boss who has suffered his fair share of ‘big hits’ and Professor John Ryan, who, as Leinster Rugby team doctor is at the ‘coal face’ of managing concussion.”

Doctor Steve Broglio said: “I am thrilled to be a part of Dr Wilson and Trinity’s research in this area, but more excited to have the opportunity to engage with the community at large on the myriad of questions surrounding concussion. There is an incredible amount of misinformation floating around and I always look forward to helping clarify or respond to questions non-scientists may have.”

To date, the natural history of concussion remains poorly defined and no objective biomarker of physiological recovery exists for clinical use. The clinical management of sport-related concussion remains among the greatest challenges in sports medicine because:

  1. The clinical effects of concussion are often subtle and difficult to detect with common assessment tools; it no longer requires a player to lose consciousness and can sometimes present as diverse and obscure symptoms.
  2. Athletes have been suggested to under-report their symptoms and falsely inflate their level of recovery in hopes of a rapid return to competition. The lack of a single objective marker increases this chance and means that the need to create a reliable test battery is the focus of good research.
  3. “Signal detection” on clinical measures (e.g., cognitive testing) often quickly diminishes in the acute phase and good research which will define a multidimensional assessment of the player will capture all aspects of brain recovery and activity.
  4. There is now recognition that our clinical assessment of concussion merely represents a surrogate index of recovery, but not a direct measure of brain structure and function after concussion.

Speaking about the quality research work ongoing at Trinity, Dr Wilson said: Trinity College has always been at the forefront of research which examines brain health and function from studies examining diverse topics such as autism and schizophrenia. The Global Brain Health Institute and the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience are world leaders in a number of aspects of research in this area. Recent research in sports concussion has accessed expertise in these institutions as well as other leaders in physiotherapy, psychology and bioengineering. Collaboration with Leinster Rugby has created a meaningful partnership with ongoing collaboration producing high-quality research output which is adding to the body of international sports concussion research.”

Recently retired Leinster Rugby player Isaac Boss and Professor John Ryan, the lead doctor with Leinster Rugby will join Drs Broglio and McCrea for a discussion panel and Q&A with the audience.

Admission is free but places are limited so early booking is advised. For further information and to register click here:

Media Contact:

Yolanda Kennedy, Former Press Officer for the Faculty of Health Sciences | | +353 1 896 4168