The study, led by the Institute, showed that of children presenting to the emergency department after a concussion, 42% were not managed according to recommended concussion guidelines, and 19% were not immediately removed from play following the head injury. Alarmingly, 93% of parents were unaware of concussion or return to play guidelines used by their sporting organisations.
Researchers have warned that lack of awareness and compliance to head injury and return-to-play guidelines is placing children at risk of complications and further head injury.
“Awareness and education of coaches, teachers, parents and children needs to be improved,” said Associate Professor Franz Babl, head of Emergency research at Murdoch Children's Research Institute.
“In the US, State laws mandate compliance with concussion education and return to play, but we don’t have similar regulations in Australia.”
Results also showed that 29% of children were allowed to return to the field the same day as their injury and 27% were not assessed by a qualified person.
“It is well known that same-day return to play in a concussed athlete puts them at higher risk of another potentially more severe concussion as they are not functioning normally. Repeat concussions in turn can cause more severe and prolonged symptoms which can impact on their ability to return to school and play,” A/Prof Babl said.
The study included children presenting to the emergency department at The Royal Children’s Hospital, using surveys with parents and children following concussion. On discharge, all patients received a phone call. Families were also given a return-to-play fact sheet based on the International Concussion in Sports Group.
Sports-related concussion has received growing media and scientific attention in recent years. Children are particularly vulnerable, with US data showing that 65% of all sports-related head injuries presenting to emergency departments occur in youths aged 5-18. In Australia, 63% of school-aged children participate in at least one organised sport outside of school.