• Rewrite policies to address current ‘alternative truths’ approach to contact sports rules.
• Cross-roads of the health spectrum on handling the concussion issues – prevent v. treat.
• Global scientific evidence mounts on effects of concussion on athletes’ long- term health.
• New approach to Under 18s playing contact sports.
The International Sports Sciences Forum (ISSF) today called for a radical overhaul of the current concussion rules and regulations of contact sport (collision sports) for the long-term health of players, both men and women, the game and society.
Forum Founder and General Convener, Enrique TOPO Rodriguez, a former international Rugby Union player who represented his native Argentina and subsequently Australia and Tahiti, said contact sports were developing ‘alternative truths’ to justify their current policies on the issue.
“There is no such thing as a ‘safe, violent blow to the head’. It is scientifically proven,” he said. “But the big business of sport today highlights how sports administrators, including Boards, are ‘offside’ in dealing with the issue. There is conflict between the money side of the equation and players’ health.”
More than 120 leading doctors, businesspeople, politicians and players from over 16 countries and five (5) continents are behind the ‘call’ for government and sports administrators to “rewrite” the playing rules and to also prevent all ‘preventable’ injuries, and/or illnesses occurring while athletes are practising and preparing for games – whether the athlete is paid or non-paid.
The ISSF has established a global network that today comprises 12 well-established institutions – prominent universities, research professionals, colleges, and clubs. The ISSF says many sporting experts are experiencing and observing the current huge endemic problem from three distinctive angles. A) The Sporting Sciences at large, B) The Empiric Proof, and the much-needed C) The stocked up and severely underutilized Experiential Knowledge of Sports (No pun… ‘the old brains that still function well’).
“Undue violence in sport requires urgently a ‘Harmonised Approach’ as a way-out of this worldwide multi-sport crises,” said Mr. Rodriguez. “The enthusiasm of solidarity after an accident hardly ever compensates for the apathy and lack of prevention before it. Prevention is better and smarter than cure. It is also rood, responsible business.”
The ISSF highlights Ms Alexandra Veuthey from Libra Law – Lausanne, Switzerland who has recently established some poignant propositions for the administrators of all sports globally – https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/handle/11343/225834.
“We are at the cross-roads on the issue,” said Mr. Rodriguez. “Most sporting codes have concussion policies, but these are dealing with the issue at the wrong end of the health spectrum. Policies need to be in place to prevent the concussion, not treat it after it has occurred.
“Contact sports today ‘enable exposure’ to traumatic brain injury. We are asking for all the resources involved in the Business of Sport to operate in a harmonised approach to protect athletes’ health, safety and well-being, both present and the future. Many hard and deep questions need to be asked – not just throw billions of dollars to ‘palliate’, or compensate the consequences of repetitive injury.”
It is now scientifically acknowledged globally that ‘collisions’ to the head in sport can result in chronic traumatic encephalopathy (a degenerative brain disease), as well a chronic depression, affective disorders (mental disorder characterized by dramatic changes or extremes of mood) and psychosis; even schizophrenia is associated to these incidents.
Mr. Rodriguez who played 42 test matches (1971-1992) for Argentina, Tahiti and Australia said all contact sports needed to adopt a 360-degree approach to dealing with the issue – scientific research, injury prevention, better management practices, guidelines and educational programs and new playing policies. “They should be focussed on enhancing an athlete’s performance and wellbeing,” he said. “The desired outcome will be fitter and healthier athletes and sporting organisations, as well as a more engaged sporting and business community.
“We also need a “rethink” or modifications to the rules for children under 18 years of age playing contact sports.
“They must be educated in ways to play their game to prevent head injuries and to show ‘respect for their fellow players, referees, coaches, teachers, and administrators. The community at large are active witnesses involved in the administration and development of sports, they also carry a degree of responsibility and ‘conscience’ of unconscionable actions.
“The current policies give participants socially acceptable opportunities to exhibit physical prowess. This is totally wrong and unacceptable in today’s society.
“Participation in contact sports is dropping because parents are concerned about the health of their children. They do not want them going out and damaging their brain. This has to be a wake-up call for all sporting administrators.”
The Australian Sports Commission’s 2017 Report on the Decline of participation in sport in secondary schools showed that Students who had previously been injured playing sport are more likely to be cautious about the types of sports that they play (e.g., reduced contact). Schools have become conscious of their duty of care when selecting sports, and the fear of injuries (and their repercussions from parents/guardians) is a significant consideration.