Experts from across the world of sports science and medicine will convene in Bath today (Monday 27 March) for the first-ever meeting of a brand-new concussion prevention network. The UK Concussion Prevention Network aims to significantly reduce concussions within youth and community sport.
Led by academics from the Edinburgh - Bath International Olympic Committee Research Centre, Leeds Beckett and Calgary (Canada) universities, and convened by the charity ‘Love of The Game’, the network has set itself an ambitious mission to reduce concussions in the UK for youth and community sports by 30% by 2030 through new policy, training and equipment interventions.
From grassroots to elite levels, reducing concussion injuries is a top priority for sport in the UK and internationally. Through the House of Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, executives from ‘Love of The Game’ have already convened expert groups to improve concussion recognition and management across all sports and at all ages.
However, until now, there was a gap in evidence informing best practice and policy when it came to sports-related concussion prevention. The focus of the UK Concussion Prevention Network is on intervening early; ensuring players and coaches are better protected, therefore reducing the likelihood that they will get concussed in the first instance.
Changes to rules of the game could be a key target to reduce concussion rates. Potential interventions of interest are likely to include a detailed examination of tackle height in rugby and heading rules in football. Other potential strategies will look at for how long and what type of training players are exposed to.
The UK Concussion Prevention Network will build on a well-established foundation from each of the university partners* which has already helped in the development of new approaches to reducing sports-related injuries, including concussions. Examples of this include ‘Activate’ – a targeted exercise protocol, developed with England Rugby to reduce injuries for youth and community rugby.
Research into Activate by the team at the University of Bath showed a dramatic reduction in overall injuries by over 70% and concussions by nearly 60% as a result of the protocol. ‘Activate’ has since been rolled out nationally by the RFU and internationally by World Rugby. This work has also informed a new international project focused on injury prevention in girls’ rugby**.
Much of the UK Concussion Prevention Network’s activities will be led by Professor Carolyn Emery, internationally recognised injury epidemiologist and physiotherapist based at the University of Calgary. Prof Emery is also Global Chair at the University of Bath through which she has been instrumental in establishing the UK network.
She explained: “I am excited to have this opportunity to collaborate with colleagues across the UK and internationally to launch the inaugural meeting of the UK Concussion Prevention Network. This will bring together researchers and sport stakeholders to build capacity in the development and implementation of evidence-informed concussion prevention strategies that will have significant public health impact in reducing sport-related concussions across the lifespan.”
‘Love of the Game’ is the national campaign aiming to reduce concussion-related issues across sport. It takes a solutions-based approach, developing rapid, actionable technologies that prevent, diagnose, and treat head injuries in sport.
Commenting, James Cameron, Trustee of Love of The Game, said: “Love of The Game is an impassioned group of athletes, players, fans, medics and innovators, united by our love of sport and the desire to protect players of all ages from the potentially devastating impact of concussions and other head injuries.
“We are delighted to be supporting the activities of the new network which will bring together leading expertise from the UK and around the world to focus on concussion injury prevention. We believe this work can play a really significant role in reducing the burden of concussions for youth and community players.”
Keith Stokes, Professor of Applied Physiology at the University of Bath and Medical Research Lead at the Rugby Football Union, added: “The UK Concussion Prevention Network aims to foster collaboration and engage communities to have a real impact in reducing concussions across sport.
“Our focus is on community sport, and particularly youth and female sport, as we know that there are great opportunities to make a difference in this space. We are delighted to be working with Love of the Game to realise our vision.”
*The UK Concussion Prevention Network was developed in partnership between two IOC Research Centres, including the Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre, Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary (Chair Prof Carolyn Emery), the Collaborating Centre on Injury and Illness Prevention in Sport (Prof Keith Stokes and Dr Debbie Palmer) and with Leeds Beckett University (Prof Ben Jones).
**The project ‘Injury Prevention in Youth Female Rugby’ (funded by World Rugby) is led by Dr Stephen West (Bath), Prof Carolyn Emery (Calgary) and Prof Keith Stokes (Bath).