Understanding Concussion

What is concussion?

A concussion is defined as a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI), caused by a blow to the head, face, neck or body which in turn causes a sudden movement of the head. Concussion can occur with or without loss of consciousness and can result in many other symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, reduced attention and concentration, memory problems and headaches.

Concussions occur in both contact and non-contact sports at both amateur and professional levels. These fast-paced environments are not conducive to easy detection and management of suspected concussions, adding to the challenges presented in assessing and managing these injuries.

Regardless of the cause of injury, there is variation among medical professionals on how best to define, diagnose and treat concussion. While rest has long been the standard approach for concussion recovery, better evidence is needed to improve both return-to-activity guidelines for everyday life and return-to-play guidelines for sports.

Understanding the effects of concussion

Symptoms of concussion are generally expected to clear within 10–14 days in adults and 4 weeks in children. However, longer lasting persistent post-concussion symptoms are reported in a small but significant number of patients and these cases require individualised medical care.

There is growing evidence that concussions, particularly repetitive concussion injuries such as those sustained through sport participation, may result in long-term consequences. Concerns have been growing regarding the role of sports concussion in the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), although there is presently no firm evidence of a cause-and-effect relationship.

While our understanding of sports concussions and their long-term effects continues to grow, it is important that a cautious approach is taken to the safety and wellbeing of players.

Research into sports concussions

Current sporting concussion guidelines are based on the best available evidence but there is much work to be done to improve the evidence base. The Drake Foundation is committed to investing in new, scientifically-significant studies to address this issue. Details of these studies can be found on our Research Activities page.

Further information on the latest research and developments in the field of concussion can be found through The Drake Foundation’s educational resources: the open access journal Concussion and the Concussion Database.