The brain is overlooked in sport, with the focus instead below the neck, meaning the most vulnerable and important organ in the body is left unprotected, unchecked and typically only sometimes acknowledged after injury. The brain determines performance in sport, and life. Brain injury accelerates the progression to negative cognitive, psychiatric and mental health outcomes.
The brain is at risk, not just to a single or high-force concussive impact, but also to the multiple sub-concussive impacts which are unnoticed and undetected in training and playing. Every head impact has the potential to be career-ending and life-changing.
The effects of concussion, or more correctly, mild traumatic brain injury and sub-concussive impacts, are underestimated, with coaches, players, parents and fans undereducated on the risks.
In a wider sporting context, research provides a significant association between a history of concussion and lower extremity injury, especially lateral ankle sprain, knee injuries and muscle strains. Athletes at all levels in sport have a greater risk of lower-body injury issues for more than a year following a sport-related concussion. In some cases, this risk is as high as 67%.
The risk of brain injury is also a significant commercial issue for professional teams, given the billion-pound losses attributable to missed days due to injury. A clear relationship has been shown across professional sports between the number of days out due to injuries and the difference between a team’s final position against their expected position, adjusted for overall squad value.