New research, which aims to explore the long-term effects of repeated concussion and head injuries among those who compete in contact sports, has been launched.
The research, ‘Concussion in Sport', will be undertaken by the Beacon Hospital Research Institute and the International Concussion and Head Injury Research Foundation (ICHIRF). It is hoped the findings will lead to better management of concussions in the future.
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that affects how the brain functions. It is usually caused by a blow to the head and is very common in contact sports.
The effects are usually temporary, but can include headaches and problems with balance, coordination, memory and concentration.
According to the researchers, while there has been a lot of research into the short-term effects of concussion, less is known about the long-term effects, particularly among athletes who suffer repeated concussions.
The aim of this research is to gather enough data to predict the outcome of repetitive brain injuries with retired athletes. It will build on research already carried out by the ICHIRF since 2015.
It will initially recruit retired jockeys, with plans to expand into other sports such as boxing, rugby, GAA and soccer. Participants will complete an online questionnaire annually and attend the Beacon Hospital for screening.
The long-term effects of concussion on these retired athletes will be compared with the experiences of people who have not competed in similar sports.
"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," explained Dr Michael Turner, medical director of the ICHIRF and COO of the Concussion Foundation, at the launch of the research.
Also speaking at the launch, former jockey, Ruby Walsh, warned that 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," he commented.
Mr Walsh also presented a cheque on behalf of the Irish Injured Jockeys Fund to help finance the research.
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