The Government and the Sport and Recreation Alliance today publishes the first UK-wide Concussion Guidelines for Grassroots Sport which will help players, coaches, parents, schools, National Governing Bodies and sports administrators to identify, manage and prevent the issue.

The guidelines, developed by an expert panel of domestic and international clinicians and academics in neurology and sports medicine, sets out steps to improve understanding and awareness of the prevention and treatment of concussion in grassroots sport where trained medical professionals are less likely to be routinely present. It is targeted at people of all ages.

‘If in doubt, sit them out’ is the strapline, making clear no-one should return to sport within 24 hours of a suspected concussion and builds on guidance already introduced in Scotland.

Players, parents, coaches, teachers and administrators are now asked to read the guidance and familiarise themselves with the necessary steps to:

  • RECOGNISE the signs of concussion;
  • REMOVE anyone suspected of being concussed immediately and;
  • RETURN safely to daily activity, education/work and, ultimately, sport.

The guidelines include a recommendation to call NHS 111 within 24 hours of a potential concussion, to rest and sleep as much as needed for the first 24 to 48 hours and avoid using devices which involve screen time.

In addition, a graduated return to activity such as work, education and sport is advised to reduce the risks of slow recovery, further brain injury and longer-term problems. Individuals should be assessed by an appropriate healthcare professional if symptoms persist for more than four weeks.

Sport NI Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown said:

“Sports concussion often dominates the headlines during the Six Nations but it is just as prevalent in grassroots sport. At Sport NI we recognise the severity of concussion on our pitches and playing fields and are proud to have played a role in ‘If in doubt, sit them out’, the new UK-wide Concussion Guidelines for Grassroots Sport. 

“The guidance sets out how to recognise concussion and how it should be managed from the time of injury through to a safe return to education, work and playing sport. Importantly, it highlights that most concussions occur without loss of consciousness. Thanks to this guidance, coaches, officials and players will be able to spot the signs of concussion and sit players out and know when to seek medical attention.

“We will be working closely with sports and their governing bodies to raise awareness of the new guidance and encourage best practice across Northern Ireland.”

Read the guidelines here.