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, relatively unchecked, and typically only at best sometimes acknowledged after injury. It is the brain that determines performance in sport, and life. The brain defines who we each are; personality, moods, intelligence and memory, the ability to think, process information and make decisions.
The brain is at risk, not just to a single or high-force impact, but also to the multiple, relatively minor impacts which are invariably unnoticed and undetected in sport and life. Every single impact to the head 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 and parents undereducated on the risks. Brain injury accelerates the progression to negative cognitive, psychiatric, mental health outcomes.
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. All athletes of 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.