More than 100 researchers, athletes, clinicians, policy makers, teachers and industrial partners took part in the 2nd annual UK Concussion Prevention Network conference.

The event, which took place at Twickenham Stadium in April, explored how evidence has been used to develop policy around concussion prevention across sports and how it can be used more effectively in the future.

It was led by academics from the Edinburgh - Bath Research Centre (named the UK Collaborating Centre on Injury and Illness Prevention in Sport (UKCCIIS)), which includes staff from Bath’s Centre for Health, and Injury & Illness Prevention in Sport (CHi2PS), as well as representatives from Leeds Beckett University and University of Calgary (Canada).

The conference, hosted by the charity Love of The Game, is part of the UK Concussion Prevention Network’s mission to reduce concussions in the UK for youth and community sports by 30% by 2030 through new policy, training and equipment interventions.

Dr Rod Hebden, CEO of Love of the Game, said:

Having brought the group together, we’re proud to be able to continue to support the network, which is tackling such an important challenge. We’re dedicated to creating a future where everyone can enjoy all the huge benefits which sport brings, without the fear of long-term impacts of concussions.

This network recognises that the best concussion is the one that never happens, and has set clear targets for measuring and reducing the incidence of concussion across all sports in the UK from grassroots to elite athletes. It’s a challenge we can only tackle if we work together, and this conference is an important step towards that.

Leading the conversation

Attendees discussed approaches to preventing instances of concussion within the likes of rugby, ice hockey, basketball, para football disciplines, cricket, cycling and wheelchair rugby. By facilitating cross-sport discussion, the goal is for primary prevention strategies to be developed to reduce concussions throughout community and youth sport.

With youth athletes a specific focus of the network, a dedicated session on protecting young people included great insights from Kevin Morris, Assistant Head Teacher at Beechen Cliff School in Bath.

Speaking at the event, Kevin said:

It’s amazing to see the knowledge and understanding that has been developed over the last 20 years underpinned by research done by the practitioners in the room."

It has allowed coaches and educators to make better decisions in how to design training, advise young athletes and also aid in any recuperation.

A notable session saw Professor Carolyn Emery - an internationally recognised injury epidemiologist and physiotherapist based at the University of Calgary and Global Chair at the University of Bath in 2022/23 - discuss concussion prevention education resources.

Acknowledging that primary prevention is the main focus of the network, the importance of education for identification and management of concussion was highlighted, with reference to the UK-wide concussion guidance for grassroots sport.

Keith Stokes, Professor of Applied Physiology at the University of Bath and Medical Research Lead at the Rugby Football Union, added:

The focus on engaging stakeholders at this year’s conference provided the network with incredible insight into the real-world challenges and opportunities in the goal to reduce concussions. The lessons from this conference will help to shape the network’s future activities.

Attendees heard real-world stories from former and current athletes from elite and community sport, including current University of Bath Students’ Union (SU) Sport Officer Abbie Watkin, who said:

It was great to input my voice from a community sport background to enlighten an audience who may not have heard this perspective before.

There is also plenty from the day that I can take back to the SU to implement improvements in our own sport provision and improve safety within what we offer.