Concussion in sport: The government response and what the next round might look like

We recently passed the first anniversary of the letter of claim on behalf of former international rugby union players alleging that negligence of the sport’s authorities (World Rugby, the RFU and Wales Rugby) caused or contributed to their neurodegenerative symptoms and diagnoses. I expect unwittingly, it coincided with the government’s publication of its formal response to the Digital Culture Media and Sport Select Committee’s (DCMSSC) July 2021 report ‘Concussion in Sport’. In the body of this blog I’ll examine the response and look at possible future developments related to head injuries in professional and amateur sport.

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Hardmen and headers – football in the news

An historic moment in football may have passed many by when, on 26 September, Spennymoor Town hosted Team Solon in a match where heading of the ball was restricted in the first half, and banned outright in the second half. Did it make a difference to the spectacle on offer? You would have to ask the 300 or so spectators, but I suspect not.

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Concussion: “sport has a problem”

There is a tension, apparent throughout this enquiry, between the certainty among campaigners and the press that sport has a problem and the uncertainty in the science of what is causing that problem

So opens the report published this week by the House of Commons Select Committee for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport following its extensive investigation into concussion in sport.  The tension set out above is hardly eased by the immediate observation that “current scientific knowledge does not demonstrate a causal link between particular sporting activities and later development of dementia.”

Despite the amount of evidence the Committee considered, both from oral hearings and written submissions (all of which are linked in the report) it is a relatively brief output. Although there are several recommendations, some with a specified time frame, there is no clarity as to the extent of the “problem” and, for me at least, a sense of this phase coming to its close rather than moving issues significantly forward.

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