International symposium addresses issue of concussion in sport

The International Symposium on Concussion in Sport, held in Vienna, Austria on November 2 and 3, 2001, endeavored to clarify major concerns with respect to the growing problem of concussion in sport. One hundred and fifty medical experts, representing more than 15 sporting organizations, attended the conference.

FIFA, together with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), invited medical experts from around the world specializing in the area of brain injury to present their research knowledge and experience. Significant progress was made in consensus for the development of a concussion protocol, global in scope, led by a core group of the medical experts working with the sporting bodies.

A unanimous decision by the sport medical representatives in attendance to pursue the development of the Concussion protocol was made, which essentially will address the following areas:

1. Concussion identification
2. Concussion evaluation
3. Implementation of new concussion research techniques
4. Concussion management, including immediate assessment, return to play and rehabilitation
5. Concussion prevention

As a result of the meeting, a Concussion working group will proceed with next steps and the sporting bodies, led by the IIHF and FIFA, are prepared to recommend the immediate implementation of the expected recommendations in a uniform manner in both sports, beginning with the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City and the FIFA World Cup™ in the spring of 2002. Although the findings will be released as recommendations, it will mark the first time that multi-sport disciplines will uniformly apply medical research to respond to serious injury in their respective competitions.

The presentations by the medical experts were extremely detailed in dealing with response to serious head injuries. The clear message to the sporting community, however, is to diligently pursue preventative measures to eliminate concussion through such initiatives as respect and fair play.

"This international conference and the input of many renowned specialists in the areas of neurology and traumatology has allowed to prepare the ground for a consensus on how concussions are to be defined, diagnosed and treated," said Prof Jiri Dvorak, member of FIFA's Sports Medical Committee. "It is now crucial to embody these findings in common guidelines as well as to define criteria for the decision if and when an athlete is to be allowed to resume his sporting activities.

"Furthermore, it is important to reach global uniformity on these issues and to make the guidelines and recommendations available at every level of the game", added Prof Dvorak.

A core group of experts is expected to work out a uniform phrasing of these definitions and guidelines within the foreseeable future.