Safety Gear Doesn’t Stop Concussions

Concussion risk still high despite wearing helmet and mouth guards

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Helmets and mouth guards do a lot to protect the head from injury. How well the equipment protects against concussion is another story.

Though mouth guards and helmets can protect the head and face from major head injuries, they still aren't effective enough in preventing concussions. 

An international panel has redefined the definition of concussion to clarify that an athlete does not have to lose consciousness before being considered to have had a concussion.

"Watch for concussion signs - act right away."

The panel presented the latest findings on concussions last November in Zurich, Switzerland at the 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport.

The consensus was rewritten by 32 international experts under the direction of Paul McCrory, PhD, from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Heidelberg, Australia. The revisions stem from reports first presented in Vienna in 2001 that recommended concussion symptoms be recognized and treated promptly.

The consensus was designed to raise public awareness of concussions, which can cause long-term neurological damage and are more common in high-risk sports such as football, rugby, ice hockey and boxing.

Concussions were defined in more detail compared to previous definitions written in the consensus. The definition now takes the Concussion Recognition Tool into account.

The tool outlines three key points to help identify concussions in kids, adolescents and adults. The points address visible clues, signs and symptoms and issues with memory function.

Concussion symptoms include headaches, memory loss, slowed reaction times, sleep disturbances and irritability.

Injured kids should not return to play the same day they are injured and may need more time to heal than adults, according to the consensus.

And although mouth guards and helmets remain highly recommended to protect from injury, "There is no good clinical evidence that currently available protective equipment will prevent concussion," according to the consensus.

"An important consideration in the use of protective equipment is the concept of risk compensation…where the use of [this] equipment results in behavioral change, such as the adoption of more dangerous playing techniques, which can result in a paradoxical increase in injury rates," the consensus stated.

Rusty Gregory, a certified wellness coach with Wellcoaches and dailyRx Contributing Expert, agrees that protective gear is not enough.

"The brain is a soft tissue organ that is 'protected' by the spinal fluid that surrounds it," he said. 

"We're seeing concussions, even with protective gear, because that fluid is not enough to absorb the bouncing around the brain takes as it reacts to external forces on the head and body."

The new revision, which was backed by the International Olympic Committee, FIFA, the International Equestrian Federation and the International Rugby Board, was published March 11 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 11, 2013
Last Updated:
March 12, 2013