Head injuries, particularly concussion, are a major cause of concern in many sports, particularly the football codes, driving a need to better understand injury mechanisms and potential methods of prevention. The aim of this study was to describe the mechanisms and follow up care of concussion injuries sustained in adult male community Australian football to identify target areas for prevention and management.
Secondary analysis of injury data collected in a cluster randomised controlled trial in community Australian football across two states of Australia in 2007 and 2008. There were 1564 players from 18 clubs. The main outcome measures were the number and rate of head/neck/face (HNF) injuries and concussion sustained in games. A specific description of the mechanisms of the concussion injuries is presented along with the immediate return-to-play status of concussion cases.
143 HNF injuries were sustained by 132 players. The game HNF injury incidence was 4.9 per 1000 game hours (n = 138; 95 % confidence interval 4.1; 5.7). Just under a quarter (n = 34) of all HNF injuries were recorded as concussion. All concussions occurred during games (none in training), with all but one related to body contact with other players. Overall, 68 % of the concussions were considered within game rules, while 32 % were either outside of the rules or unclear. Most (88 %) players left the field immediately following concussion but 47 % later returned to play in the same game.
Prevention strategies for concussion need to be based on knowledge of the mechanisms of injury. Most concussions in community Australian football occurred through body contact with other players or during tackling. Management of players post-concussion was generally poor with over half of the cases continuing to play in the same game. Therefore, new primary prevention strategies that target body-contact/tackling skills and improved secondary prevention measures relating to compliance with return-to-play protocols would be valuable.