If you have ever played a contact sport, rugby, GAA, hockey or anything that involves the risk of a collision with another player or the ground, then you have probably heard of, or even experienced a concussion. But do you really understand what it is or what the symptoms are like for yourself or for the other players on your team? Would you know what to do if a person you were with suffered a suspected concussion?
These are the questions that laya healthcare is trying to answer with our latest Health and Wellness initiative. Not only are we giving the tools to people to better deal with a suspected concussion, but we are also educating players, parents and coaches on the signs and symptoms and what to do when one occurs.
In early 2016, we launched Head On, a Concussion Management Programme for Leinster rugby clubs and their players. This pilot programme, in association with Leinster Rugby with whom we have a Health and Wellness Partnership, is designed to educate and bring peace of mind to those who play rugby around the topic of concussion and to ensure they continue to follow correct rest and recovery protocols if they do ever suffer a concussion. In short, it’s to keep rugby players safe from further injury while making sure they don’t go back on the field too early.
Leinster Rugby Star Rob Kearney pitcured with our Deputy Managing Director DO O' Connor
But what is Concussion?
Well it’s more than just a knock on the head.
To be technical, concussion is a type of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). It can occur when a player (in any sport) receives an impact to the head or body that causes the brain to rattle inside the skull. In the majority of cases, a player doesn’t lose consciousness when they suffer concussion.
This is where the real risk lies. So many people don’t fully understand what concussion really is. People assume it’s only a bad knock to the head and it’s only when you lose consciousness but it’s far more common than that. And as games from all disciplines in Irish sport get faster and more frequent, the risk of concussion can only increase.
What is the Head On?
As this is a pilot programme, the first group we are focussing on is Leinster based rugby players. Known as our Concussion Management Programme, we are investing €100,000 to provide this programme to 1,300 rugby players in Leinster.Within the programme there are two core parts:
Education – a key part of this programme is making sure people not only know what concussion is, but also know how to identify the signs to keep their fellow team mates safe. While some symptoms are physical and may be very obvious, some are not so clear and may relate to things like memory loss and mood swings. It’s important to have a good understanding of what these can be, more information can be found in our Guide to Concussion, introduced as part of this programme. This Guide has been sent to every rugby club in Leinster for their players and coaches. We also provided education posters (please feel free to download this for your own club) for each club to place around their club house and changing rooms to reinforce the message around concussion and how to spot and deal with a concussion.
The Baseline Test - the second part of the programme is a baseline test. This test is designed to give a baseline reading on things such as memory and cognitive reactions when the player is healthy. The results of this baseline test then act as a comparison should a person suffer a suspected concussion, so the seriousness of their concussion can be assessed.
How does the test work?
It's actually really simple. The player sits at a computer and performs some easy actions to test a few fundamentals around memory and reaction times. It involves moving a mouse around the screen and clicking in response to various commands. It takes about 40-45 minutes and involves no physical activity, and is done away from pitch when the player is fully healthy.
The test scores (baseline scores) are then available should the person suffer a concussion in the future.If the player does suffer a concussion then a follow up assessment is booked by the player, their parents or their coach with our provider AMS and a HEAD ON doctor conducts a post-injury evaluation. In simple terms the baseline test and the follow up assessment are compared and by measuring the differences in cognitive skills the seriousness of their concussion can be determined and advice around rest and return to play is given to the player.
This follow up assessment is also covered for free as part of the Head On Programme by laya healthcare. Once this pilot programme is completed, we would like to roll it out to other areas and other sports depending on the pilot’s success.
Our commitment to Looking After You Always.
At laya healthcare we are committed to looking after our members always and making sure they receive the best possible healthcare at all times. We are also committed to a wider preventative healthcare agenda to support the health and well-being of the general population. This is where Head On fits in. It’s aimed at making a difference to people’s lives, allowing them to be more active, be healthier and ultimately be happier.
If you have any questions on this programme you can also visit www.layahealthcare.ie/headon