New research will explore the long-term effects of repeated concussion and head injuries on those who have competed in contact sports.
The research, ‘Concussion in Sport’, launched today as a collaboration between Beacon Hospital Research Institute and the International Concussion and Head Injury Research Foundation (ICHIRF), will allow for better management of concussions in the future.
While there is lots of research and understanding about the short-term effects of concussion, the long-term effects of this injury, particularly for athletes who suffer repeated concussions, are still uncertain. As such, this research will seek to gather sufficient data to predict the outcome of repetitive brain injuries with retired athletes.
Concussion in Sport is part of an international, multi-sport study into concussion. It will build on research about the effects of concussion that has been carried out by the International Concussion and Head Injury Research Foundation (ICHIRF) since 2015.
The project will initially recruit retired jockeys and will then expand to other contact sports such as rugby, GAA, boxing and soccer. They will be asked to complete an online questionnaire annually and to attend Beacon Hospital for screening.
The long-term effects of concussion on these retired athletes will then be compared with the experience of people who have not competed in similar sports.
The prevalence of concussions has emerged as a major issue in both amateur and professional contact sports in recent years.
For example, a study of 160 professional rugby union players in Ireland, in the journal Physical Therapy in Sport, found that there were 60 concussions in 47 players over the 2016/17 season.
Meanwhile, researchers from the UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science found that over 15% of professional and semi-professional footballers in the SSE Airtricity League suffered a confirmed concussion during the 2014 season.
Commenting on the launch of the study, legendary former jockey Ruby Walsh, who presented a cheque on behalf of the Irish Injured Jockeys Fund to help finance the research, said: “Repeated concussions can have a major effect on athletes taking part in contact sports, often impacting them both professionally and personally. Though athletes are tough and can take a hit, there is a need for better understanding to help with treatment and management. Therefore, I welcome this vital research.”
Michael Cullen, CEO of Beacon Hospital said: “Our ambition over the next several years is to establish Beacon Hospital as a “research-led” hospital which delivers research that positively impacts patients and their journey with us. We established Beacon Hospital Research Institute (BHRI) in March 2019 to respond to the rapidly expanding portfolio of research being conducted across the hospital. This will allow us to deliver evidence-based medicine and improve treatment options to our patients. We’re delighted to be part of this ground-breaking new research about concussion, which will help athletes and others into the future.”
Dr Michael Turner, Medical Director of ICHIRF and COO of The Concussion Foundation said: “The start of screening at Beacon Hospital represents a major step forward in the ICHIRF project and will enable retired sportsmen and women in Ireland to take part in this ground-breaking research for the first time.”