Err on the side of caution, junior footy urged

Former NSW team doctor John Orchard has called for junior contact sports to exercise extreme caution when managing suspected concussions after a 13-year-old footballer was left in a serious condition after playing on after suffering a head knock.

Macarthur Saints rugby league player Jarrod Fletcher was placed in an induced coma on life support after collapsing during the game. Two days earlier, Tyler Horton, 16, was placed in an induced coma after copping a knee to the head in a game in Bathurst. He underwent emergency brain surgery.

Dr Orchard, a former Roosters medico who is now the spokesman for Sports Medicine Australia, said it was crucial for all junior sporting codes to have personnel trained in the recognition and management of concussion.

”Recently updated rugby league guidelines state that any player displaying signs of concussion should receive an urgent medical assessment and should in no circumstances return to play until formal medical clearance has been provided,” Orchard said.

”Children have significant physical, physiological and development differences that place them at long-term risk if sports-related concussion is not managed appropriately.

”Currently fewer than 20 per cent of concussed children are actually diagnosed with concussion.

”This needs to change – if there is any doubt at all, sit them out.”

Orchard said that if any player is displaying symptoms – including loss of consciousness, confusion, memory disturbance, blurred vision, dizziness, nausea and/or unsteadiness – coaches and trainers should immediately remove the player from the field and not allow them to return to play.

”Once removed from play, any child suspected of concussion should then be medically assessed as soon as possible,” Orchard said.

”With research suggesting that full recovery of brain function may take longer than previously thought, it is extremely important that children suspected of concussion are not allowed to return to the field and risk further head injury.

”Concussion not only affects a child’s sporting activities, it may impact a child’s learning at school.

”SMA (Sports Medicine Australia) is aware that many local and community sports clubs simply don’t have the resources to provide a doctor for every game, however in the absence of a qualified medical practitioner, we would urge those coaches and trainers responsible for player welfare to exercise extreme caution where head injuries are concerned.

”It is also vital that local GPs ensure their concussion management and guideline knowledge is up to date, particularly for those regional and remote communities home to local contact sports competitions.”

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