A landmark inquiry into the impact and extent of concussions in sport has recommended improved data collection, greater research and better management of the medical condition.
The federal parliamentary inquiry investigated concussions and repeated head trauma in contact sports at all levels.
Its final report gave 13 recommendations to improve responses and reduce sports-related concussions and head injuries.
A major recommendation was to establish a National Sports Injury Database as a matter of urgency to address Australia’s data gap on the issue.
Professional sporting codes would be required to collect data on concussions and identified sub-concussive events and share it with the database.
The committee also urged the Commonwealth to play a bigger role in coordinating research on the effects of concussion and repeated head trauma by considering funding ongoing research.
Greens senator Janet Rice, who chaired the committee, said the inquiry heard heartbreaking stories from athletes whose lives were shattered by concussions experienced in their professional lives.
Former AFL executive John Hennessy labelled the concussion crisis a “national disgrace”.
Family members who had lost loved ones because of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy also urged more action from parliament so others would not suffer the way they had.
“Sport builds communities and connects people from all walks of life, and to make sure it stays an essential component of our community life and culture, we need to protect people from injury and long-term harm,” Senator Rice said.
“It is time for the Commonwealth to step up.
“Concussion is a serious issue affecting thousands of Australians (and) there is much more that the Commonwealth could and should be doing.”
Other key recommendations included considering measures to encourage Australians to donate their brains in the event of their death for scientific research into brain health and disease.
The health and aged care department should also consider ways to improve community awareness and education about concussion and repeated head trauma.
Independent senator Lidia Thorpe, who successfully initiated the inquiry in December 2022, said the government should not be afraid to address the issue.
“I know the importance sports have for our communities, it is important to ensure that players are as safe and supported as possible,” she said.
“We need the report’s recommendations implemented as a matter of urgency so we can all do the sports we love safely … and so that we can do what we love in life longer and not be affected by injuries and their long-term consequences on us and our families.”
(Australian Associated Press)