Australia has long prided itself on being a 'sporting nation'. As a country, we have high participation rates across a range of sports, host a number of major sporting events, and often outperform on the global stage. The vast social, developmental, physical, and mental health benefits of playing, participating in and watching sport are well established, and for many Australians, sport is a significant part of life.

In recent years there have been increasing reports and concern, both in Australia and internationally, about the growing evidence of the link between sport-related concussions and repeated head trauma, and short and long-term impacts on athletes’ health, including links to neurodegenerative diseases such as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

During the course of this inquiry, the committee heard confronting accounts from former athletes and their families of the impacts that sport-related concussion and head injuries had on them and their loved ones. The committee heard of former athletes suffering from anxiety, depression, psychosis, hallucinations, dizziness and brain fog, and how those closest to them watched their rapid decline.

However, evidence to this inquiry has clearly highlighted that the link between concussion, repeated head trauma and contact sport is a contentious issue and space, with sporting organisations, medical, research and legal professionals, governments, the media and the community alike, all grappling with its evolving complexities and evidence.

Report structure:

  • The introductory chapter sets out general information outlining the conduct of the inquiry and provides background information relating to concussions, repeated head trauma and contact sports in Australia and around the world.
  • Chapter 2 discusses the challenges present in determining the incidence of concussion in sport in Australia, including inconsistencies around the definition of concussion and the limitations of current diagnosis tools.
  • Chapter 3 explores the various perspectives that inquiry participants have on the impact that concussion and head trauma have on long-term brain health. Additionally, it discusses various research initiatives which are currently underway, concerns about research integrity in this space and the need for further, independent and unconflicted research going forward.
  • Chapter 4 outlines how cultural factors and a lack of understanding about sport-related concussion and repeated head trauma can contribute to the under-reporting of incidents, concealing of symptoms and poor management of concussive injuries.
  • Chapter 5 outlines on-field harm minimisation strategies and return-to-play protocols to help prevent and reduce the impact of concussions and repeated head trauma. It also discusses the need to encourage and enforce better adherence to the wide variety of concussion related safety policies and rules which Australian sports have in place.
  • Chapter 6 discusses the support available to sportspeople who have suffered from the impacts of sport-related concussions and head trauma, including insurance, remediation and compensation measures.
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