By On June 17th, 2016

New Concussion Protocols Are Helping Keep Athletes’ Brains Safe

Concussions are starting to be taken seriously in sports of all ages. The idea that concussions in sports like football and hockey can have life-long effects is finally accepted as a fact by the majority of people and sporting organizations are starting to put strong and effective policies in place to protect athletes.

Specifically, this week two major sports organizations announced plans to enact concussion protocols that will dictate how potential brain injuries are assessed and treated.

New College Wrestling Concussion Protocol

The governing body of the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved new rules for college wrestlers that will give medical staff considerable more say in how potentially injured players are handled. Under the new rules that will go into action in the 2016-2017 season, medical personnel will be given an unlimited and unimpeded amount of time to assess concussions in wrestlers.

wrestlers-646528_640Medical staff will also have the ability to remove athletes from competition or practice at any time to perform a concussion evaluation. The panel also specifically designated that all medical evaluations for brain injuries be tracked in order to ensure the rule is applied and gauge how long proper evaluations tend to take.

If a wrestler is removed from competition, the match will be suspended until the evaluation is complete and the medical professional determines if the wrestler is injured. All participants, including the referee and coaches, are required to remain on the wrestling mat during the evaluation.

The suspension of the match will not count as an injury timeout or recovery timeout. The injured player is not allowed to receive coaching, however, medical personnel can request that coaching staff assist in moving or calming injured wrestlers if needed.

The new rules give significant new protection to players who have potentially experienced a concussion and ensures that athletes are unlikely to experience a second, more severe, head injury.

Horse Jockeys Prepare Concussion Protocol

While the concussion protocol for college wrestlers will go into action in the upcoming season, the Jockey’s Guild for professional horse racing is taking more time to prepare a thorough and informed set of rules and regulations to protect jockeys’ brains.

horses-380402_640In a partnership with the University of Kentucky, the Jockeys’ Guild will be commencing “a three-year pilot study supported by a broad cross sectional of thoroughbred organizations, designed to evolve into the first comprehensive concussion management protocol for jockeys,” according to TheHorse.com.

Director of the graduate athletic training program and a professor in the UK College of Health and Sciences, Dr. Carl Mattacola, will be leading the study at all five of Kentucky’s Thoroughbred racetracks, including Kentucky Downs. The study will begin this summer, but could take time to produce an actionable set of regulations.

As part of the study, jockeys will undergo a baseline concussion assessment. If a jockey falls, they will be assessed again and their pre-and post-injury results will be reviewed by a specialized concussion health care expert involved in the study.

“We want to give the jockeys who suffer head injuries the best science has to offer, and an important first step towards that goal is to generate data from which an appropriate management protocol can be developed,” said Mattacola. “This project will leverage the full resources and knowledge base of UK’s Sports Medicine Research Institute and the Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center to help create the first national protocol for concussion management in jockeys.”

The announcement of the study and forthcoming concussion protocol are particularly notable as a recent study indicated that equestrian sports may be the leading cause of sports-related concussions. These injuries can also be more severe due to the distance of the typical fall during equestrian sports and the danger of being struck by a horse.

It is commendable that both these sporting organizations are recognizing the serious nature of concussions during athletic events and are taking serious strides to protect their athletes. While these rules may not prevent concussions from taking place, they can help ensure injured athletes are protected from further, more serious injuries.

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