Concussion is a disturbance in the brains ability to acquire and process information. It arises from damage caused to the brain when an external force is applied to the head or body.
You do not have to lose consciousness to get a concussion, although you will most certainly have a concussion if you lose consciousness.
How common is concussion?
In Australia across all football codes the chance of concussion is around 1 in 7. (Headsmart Sports Concussion Program)
The likelihood of getting a concussion is much higher in some sports than others. Sports like volleyball and Gymnastics have a very low rate (but it still can occur). Rugby Union and Rugby League have much higher rates of concussion. MMA and Taekwondo have very high rates. The table below compares the rates of concussion in some different sports.
Sport Concussions per 1000 hours played
Aussie Rules 4.1
Rugby Union (senior) 5.1
Rugby Union (junior) 10.1
Rugby League 14.1
Horse Racing (amateur) 95.2
As you can see some sports are significantly more dangerous than others when it comes to head injury but there is a risk in most sports. It is very important then to be able to recognise the signs that a player may be concussed.
Recognising concussion on field is challenging for both non-medical and medical staff. Because there is no formally accepted and universal definition for concussion, there are a lot of differences in interpreting what is seen at the time of injury. Some of the things to look for however are listed below. They can be grouped into signs (what you see) and symptoms (what the player describes).
The safest thing to do in all circumstances where there is the suspicion that a player has been concussed is to remove them from playing/training immediately and not allow them to return that day. They should not be allowed to drive and should remain in the company of a responsible adult. In no circumstances should they consume alcohol. Players should not return to training until they have a clearance from a medical doctor.