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Government and sports bodies 'fail to reduce concussion risks'

Thursday July 22nd 2021

The Government and sporting bodies must address a long-term failure to reduce the risks of brain injury in sport, MPs say today.

The warning comes as an inquiry into concussion in sport by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee accuses sporting organisations being “allowed to mark their own homework”.

The MPs said they were “astounded” that sport should be left by the Health and Safety Executive to assess the risks involved.

They say the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 places a duty of care on employers to protect the health of workers, which should apply equally to footballers and jockeys as well as miners or construction workers.

Despite a coroner’s court verdict nearly 20 years ago that the dementia suffered by footballer Jeff Astle was consistent with heading a ball, there had been a lack of engagement with the issue of concussion, found the Committee.

It also found broader failings, including a lack of government action on previous safety recommendations, no UK-wide minimum standard definition of concussion, and an absence of employer responsibility expected through the Health and Safety Executive.

Julian Knight MP, chair of the DCMS Committee, said: “We’ve been shocked by evidence from athletes who suffered head trauma, putting their future health on the line in the interests of achieving sporting success for the UK.

“What is astounding is that when it comes to reducing the risks of brain injury, sport has been allowed to mark its own homework.

“The Health and Safety Executive is responsible by law, however risk management appears to have been delegated to the National Governing Bodies, such as the FA. That is a dereliction of duty which must change.

“The failure by these sporting organisations to address the issue of acquired brain injury is compounded by a lack of action by Government. Too often it has failed to take action on player welfare and instead relied on unaccountable sporting bodies.

“As concerning is grassroots sport with mass participation where we’ve found negligible effort to track brain injuries and monitor long-term impacts.”

The Committee called for the Government to establish UK-wide minimum standard definition for concussion that all sports must use and adapt for their sport and said the Health and Safety Executive should work with national governing bodies of all sports to establish a national framework for the reporting of sporting injuries.

It added that UK Sport should take a governance role in assuring that all sports it funds raise awareness on the dangers of concussion effectively and it should also pay for a medical officer at every major sporting event to ensure the safety of participants and also prevent athletes at risk from competing.

Tags: Brain & Neurology | Fitness | UK News

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