This information is adapted from THE MANAGEMENT OF CONCUSSION IN AUSTRALIAN FOOTBALL , AFL, 2017 and is aimed at raising awareness across our RJFC community, including club and team officials, players and parents. It is not a policy for the management of concussion. A policy is currently under development and will be distributed in due course.
The AFLs Concussion Recognition tool 5 (CRT5) is also a useful document to have with you on game day.
What is concussion?
A concussion is a type of a brain injury that occurs following a trauma to the head or body, which can be either direct or indirect (e.g. whiplash injury). The brain moves forward in the skull at pace, contacting the skull bone. When the forces transmitted to the brain are high enough, they can “stun” the nerves and affect the way in which the brain functions. Symptoms can come on immediately or may take hours to gradually evolve.
Concussion in children
People younger than 24 are at greater risk for concussion than older adults are.
Myelin is a fatty substance that coats nerves, allowing impulses to move more quickly through the nerve cells. Children do not have fully myelinated brains, meaning nerves have less protection than adult brains and are more susceptible to being “stunned”. In addition, children have disproportionately weak necks compared to adults and disproportionately large, heavy heads. This sets them up for brain injuries that are more serious than those sustained at a later age from the same amount of force.
Girls also appear more susceptible to concussions than boys as young women have less developed neck muscles than their male counterparts.
Any one or more of the following visual clues can indicate a possible concussion:
- Loss of consciousness or responsiveness (however a player does not have to lose consciousness to have suffered a concussion)
- Lying motionless on ground/slow to get up
- Seizure or convulsion
- Unsteady on feet/balance problems or falling over/incoordination
- Grabbing/clutching of head
- Dazed, blank or vacant look
- Confused/not aware of plays or events
- Facial injury
Symptoms reported by the player that should raise suspicion of concussion include:
- Nausea or feel like vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Balance problems or dizziness
- Feeling “dinged” or “dazed”
- “Don’t feel right”
- Sensitivity to light or noise,
- More emotional or irritable than usual
- Sadness, nervous/anxious
- Neck pain
- Feeling slowed down, feeling like in a fog
- Difficulty concentrating
It is also important to note that people who have suffered concussion in the past are more likely to sustain a concussion in the future.
In general, concussion injuries take between 1 – 4 weeks to recover. Children require a different approach from adults because their brains are developing, and they need to continue learning and acquiring knowledge. As such, the priority is not just player welfare and return to sport, but also a return to school and learning. In general, children and adolescents take longer to recover, and may take up to the full four weeks.
Any player who has suffered a concussion or is suspected of having a concussion must NOT be allowed to return to play in the same game/practice session. The child should not to return to football, or other sport, until he/she has successfully returned to school/learning and is symptom-free, however early introduction of limited physical activity is appropriate, as long as symptoms do not worsen.