Edinburgh Sports Injury Clinic

Concussion in Sport

Concussion is an alteration to how your brain normally works. It is caused by a blow or jolt to the head, which in turn causes the brain to shake inside the skull. Whether and athlete is suffering from concussion or not is a question which commonly occurs in contact sports. Direct contact with the head however is not always required for concussion to occur. A force applied to the body producing a whiplash effect, as in a rugby tackle, can have the same results as a direct blow to the head sustained in a boxing match.


If concussion is suspected during competition or training, the athlete should be removed from play and medical attention should be sought immediately. The athlete may initially appear well with symptoms arising in the first 24-48 hours following the incident. Should this be the case, medical attention should be sought at that time, regardless of the assessment which took place at the time of the incident.


There are many symptoms of concussion, with lack of consciousness being only one of them. These symptoms include:- headaches, dizziness, sickness, drowsiness, loss of balance and coordination, weakness, numbness, slurred speech, loss of memory, change in emotional state, behavioural changes, confusion, seizures and visual disturbances.


If concussion is suspected or diagnosed then the athlete should be carefully monitored. They should not be left alone, allowed to drive or drink alcohol. They may use paracetamol for a headache (under advisement) but no aspirin or anti inflammatory medication. They should rest and avoid all strenuous activity.


With rest, most people fully recover from concussion. Some may take a few hours, others several weeks. Sport should not be commenced until all symptoms of concussion have gone and the player has been checked out by a doctor. Return to activity should be gradual and monitored.