An editorial published today in The Lancet Neurology calls for sports authorities to take into consideration the long term neurological problems that repeated concussions can cause.
Cerebral concussion is the most common form of sports-related traumatic brain injury (TBI), and the long-term effects of repeated concussions may include dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and other neurological disorders, say the journal editors.
However, what is perhaps more concerning, is that even when the symptoms of concussion are delayed, or if they come and go quickly, neurological damage can remain without detection. This can lead to footballers, such as Uruguayan defender Álvaro Pereira during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, overruling doctors' advice to be substituted and returning to play after sustaining a head injury.
The journal editors argue that the decision for players to return to a game after sustaining a concussion should be made only by healthcare professionals, and "should surely be taken out of the hands of those with a vested interest in the player's performance."
According to the journal editors, "Many sporting organisations now acknowledge the potentially serious consequences of mild TBI and have drawn up new protocols to protect athletes who sustain a head injury'. However FIFPro, the world players' union, has called for an investigation of concussion protocols and return-to-play standards following Pereira's injury"