Over the past ten years, increased awareness, educational initiatives, new policies and legislation, and technological advancements have been notable highlights in concussion research.
In honor of HEADCHECK Health’s 10th anniversary, we find it an opportune time to reflect on the progress made in concussion research over the past decade.
Once dismissed as minor injuries, sport-related concussions are now taken much more seriously as complex neurological events requiring medical care. The past decade in concussion research has been marked by increasing awareness, evolving recovery protocols, and advancing technologies.
Increased Awareness for All Sports and All Athletes
There is a much greater awareness of the risks of concussion across all sports. While the mainstream sports like football and soccer have continued to receive attention, other sports have gained more recent recognition in concussion research. On the HEADCHECK Health blog, we have highlighted concussion research in sports such as equestrian and cheerleading.
Additionally, this period also saw the debunking of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, recognizing the unique nature of each concussion. There is now a much greater focus on personalized medical care for athletes with concussions.
From grassroots sports leagues to professional organizations, there has been an increased emphasis on concussion education. The past decade has seen a culture shift towards taking head injuries more seriously. The HEADS UP Initiative by the CDC continues to be an instrumental program for educating coaches, parents, and athletes about concussion prevention and management. This effort has been widely supported by community engagement and advocacy groups pushing for safer sports practices. Our partners at TeachAidas have reimagined concussion education with CrashCourse, a video-based interactive learning experience for students, parents, coaches, officials, and youth sports organizations.
The Role of Policy and Legislation
The last decade has seen significant policy and legislative changes, especially for youth athletes. By 2014, all 50 states in the U.S. had passed concussion legislation focused on providing education and giving youth ample time to recover from concussions. In Canada, several provinces have official concussion policies, with Ontario leading the way in passing the first concussion legislation in 2018.
High-profile cases in professional sports have amplified the conversation around concussions. This heightened awareness has translated into policy changes, like the release of the NFL’s concussion protocol, which has influenced standards across various sports leagues.
Breakthroughs in Management of Concussions
There has been considerable progress in the management of concussions to include:
- Exercise Post-Concussion: A major breakthrough in concussion management over the past decade is the recommendation of exercise over rest. Light exercise, like walking or riding a stationary bike, are now recommended after the first two days of sustaining a concussion.
- Updated Assessment Tool: An updated standardized assessment tool, the SCAT6, was released in 2023 and includes a broader range of measures aimed at capturing the effects of concussion on multiple body systems.
- Return-to-Learn Protocols: There has been a much greater focus on returning student-athletes to learning safely and effectively. For those needing learning accommodations, a step-by-step return-to-learn protocol is available.
Advancements in concussion management software have enabled better tracking of symptoms, recovery progress, and communication between healthcare providers, athletes, parents, and coaching teams. This integration of technology has not only improved quality of care but also accessibility.
Over the past 10 years, HEADCHECK Health’s commitment to leveraging technology in concussion management has been an integral part of this evolution.
According to the worldwide Concussion in Sport Group, the top three priorities for future research are potential long-term effects, prevention, and rehabilitation.
Expect to see more and more research and advancements in these areas in the coming years, with HEADCHECKleading the way in helping organizations of all types and sizes in managing concussion risks and supporting athlete recovery.
Patricios JS, Schneider KJ, Dvorak J, et al. Consensus statement on concussion in sport: the 6th International Conference on Concussion in Sport– Amsterdam, October 2022. Br J Sports Med. 2023;57:695–711.