Sports injury database ‘would be a crucial resource’

Jolyon Attwooll

7/09/2023 4:07:27 PM

A Senate report into concussion has broadly been welcomed, although there is no firm recommendation for evidence-based guidelines for GPs.

Rugby scrum
The inquiry has prompted calls to make sport safer and protect the health and wellbeing of participants.

Neurologists, researchers and the RACGP have welcomed a Senate Committee recommendation for the establishment of a National Sports Injury Database to help track the impact of sports head injuries.
The suggestion is one of 13 recommendations contained in a report stemming from the Community Affairs References Committee inquiry into Concussions and Repeated Head Trauma in Contact Sports.
The report’s proposals cover areas including research, return-to-play protocols, raising community awareness as well as the potential for new safety-enhancing rule changes.
Many of the suggestions included in the RACGP’s submission to the inquiry were referenced in the committee’s recommendations.
RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins welcomed the report, describing it as ‘a wake-up call’ with ‘many promising recommendations’.
‘It’s great to see that many of the RACGP’s suggestions were heeded in the final committee report,’ she said.
‘As a GP and a mum of children who play contact sport, I know only too well the importance of getting all the policy settings right when it comes to concussion and head trauma.’
However, the report did not contain a full recommendation for the development of standardised, evidence-based concussion and head trauma guidelines for GPs. Instead, it suggests the Federal Government should ‘consider how best to address calls’ for the guidelines along with state and territory governments.
Dr Higgins said the college will keep a close eye on progress for evidence-based guidelines and welcomed the recommendation for sporting organisations to explore rule modifications.
The RACGP called for more intervention from Government and sporting bodies to limit the long-term impacts of concussion in its submission to the Senate inquiry, after making similar calls in its response to the National Dementia Action Plan.
‘We don’t want kids and adults walking away from contact sport, far from it,’ Dr Higgins said.
‘We just need to make sport safer and protect the health and wellbeing of participants in communities across Australia; this is something that must be a priority in the years ahead.’
According to the RACGP President, increased Medicare rebates for consultations lasting 20–40 minutes, as well as those lasting 40–60 minutes, would also be beneficial.
‘Taking care of a patient who has been concussed or suffered head trauma simply can’t be rushed,’ she said.
For Dr Chidozie Anyaegbu, a Research Fellow in Neurotrauma at Curtin University and The Perron Institute for Neurological and Translational Research, the call for a sports injury database is one of the stand-out recommendations.
‘I echo the views of the medical professionals and scientists referenced in the report that there is at least an association between concussion and repeated head trauma and long-term neurological conditions,’ he said.

‘However, comprehensive prospective and longitudinal research tracking the development of these neurological conditions in a living brain is necessary to establish causation.
‘I commend the Senate committee’s recommendation of a National Sports Injury Database, as this will be a crucial resource for such longitudinal research.’
Dr Rowena Mobbs, a neurologist at Macquarie University and Director of Australian CTE Biobank, echoed those views, saying such a database ‘would revolutionise concussion research and protocols in this country’.
‘It would drive policy shifts and set the tone for cultural awareness on concussion that will have innumerable benefits for generations to come,’ she said.
The Senate inquiry was established in December last year, following a series of reports both in Australia and abroad about the potential link between sport-related concussions and head trauma and neurodegenerative diseases such as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
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