Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) committee investigation into concussions in sport says urgent government action is needed as sport has been allowed to “mark its own homework. “.
The report called on the government to oversee the introduction of a consistent UK-wide minimal concussion protocol over the next year, mirroring the approach taken in Scotland.
He also called on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to get more involved in sport, with committee chairman Julian Knight accusing him of “dereliction of duty” leaving sports to manage themselves. the risks.
The report recommended that HSE work with sports organizations to establish a national framework for reporting sports injuries by July 2022. Within one year, all sports should be required to report any event that could lead to brain injury. acquired.
“State protections for workers apply to footballers and jockeys as much as to minors and construction workers,” the report said.
“We are amazed that sport is left by the Health and Safety Executive to mark its own duties.”
The report admitted that no definitive causal link had been established between playing sports and dementia, but said it was “undeniable that a significant minority of people would face neurological problems at long term because of their participation in sport ”.
Knight said: “Frankly, to this day we’ve just seen freebies and it’s complete nonsense.
“We know there is a link between dementia and acquired brain damage and it sometimes happens in sports. It is more likely to happen in sports environments, so what we need to do is mitigate those risks. through appropriate advice.
“We always want people to enjoy the sport they love, but to be aware of the risk and have as many safety protocols in place as are reasonable.”
The report also accuses the football authorities of having taken too long to tackle the problem. He said the coroner’s verdict on former West Brom and England striker Jeff Astle almost 20 years ago should have prompted the Football Association to take a “stronger and more sustained interest” in the matter.
Astle’s death was attributed to an occupational disease related to the repeated direction of a bullet.
“Over the past 20 years, neither the Football Association nor the Professional Footballers’ Association have fought hard enough, or publicly enough, to address this issue within the wider football community,” the report said.
“They are, however, only part of a larger failure to address the problem of acquired brain damage in sport.”
The report says the government will play a central role in developing a comprehensive concussion protocol across the UK and ensuring it is communicated properly.
“We find it hard to see the downsides of a consistent UK-wide protocol for concussions and recommend that the government look to the Scottish model and then work with the decentralized governments of Scotland, the country of Wales and Northern Ireland to develop, over the next 12 months, a UK protocol for concussions in all sports, “he said.
“This should be used by national governing bodies as a minimum standard for creating the rules for their sport and should take into account and be consistent with the national framework for sports injury reporting that we recommended earlier in this report. “
The government is also called upon to help set up a central research fund – where research is “considered independent” – and to encourage sport to contribute by providing some matching funding.
The report said the government had been guilty of “failure to comply with practical interventions” in the past, based on previous reports.
“We urge the government to seize the nettle this time around, to overcome concerns about how regulation can change the sport and to take real and effective action,” the report said.
Advancement : Sport missed the chance to put its house in order
Headway Brain Injury Charity has welcomed the findings of the investigation.
Responding to the DCMS report, Peter McCabe, Managing Director of Headway, said: “This is an important step forward in the campaign to better protect people from the short and long term risks of concussion. .
“We are grateful to the committee for inviting us to contribute to this important investigation. The report makes a number of clear recommendations, which we all broadly support, although some questions remain.
“Improving data collection and monitoring will help us better understand the extent of the problem, especially at the local level, while government support for treatment, research funding and education would be also welcome.
“The committee’s criticism of the sport’s governing bodies is clear. This problem is not new and yet for years sport has been able to downplay its importance, with little or no government oversight. .
“For too long it has been left to charities such as Headway to hold the sport to account and we agree with Julian Knight that this needs to change. The sport has had enough time to put its house in order and the time has come for the government to intervene. “