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Head injury Dementia and Sport


Sporting injuries Australia

2016–17, 58,500 people were hospitalised for sports injuries in Australia. One in 10 injuries were life-threatening.

Males were more than twice as likely to be hospitalised as females.

For males,

the sports that most frequently led to hospitalisation were football (all codes) (38%) (22,000)

Most football injuries were to the hips and legs (30%), followed by the head and neck (25%) (5,500)

 cycling (12%) and wheeled motor sports (8%).

For females,

they were football (all codes) (15%), netball (10%; 13% when combined with basketball) and equestrian activities (11%).

Estimated injury rates per 100,000 participants were lowest for recreational walking (12) and fitness and gym activities (10). Hospitalised sports injury in Australia, 2016–17, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2020


Concussion and Children

The occurrence of concussion in children during sport is significantly more likely compared to other levels of athletes. Roughly 20% of children playing sport are diagnosed with concussion.

Despite the lower level of impact compared to the professional or amateur levels, children's neck muscles are quite weak and most lack the awareness and skill level to cushion or prepare themselves for a blow leading to a high concussion rate.  (Management of Concussion in Children, Sports Medicine Australia 04 March 2016)

Increasing Dementia in Australia

In 2021, there were an estimated 28,300 people with younger onset dementia, expected to rise to 29,350 people by 2028 and 41,250 people by 2058 (Dementia Australia (2018) Dementia Prevalence Data 2018-2058, commissioned research undertaken by NATSEM, University of Canberra)

An average of 36 people died per day where dementia was the underlying cause of death in 2016. Of the 13,126 people that lost their lives, 8,447  64 per cent were female (Australian Bureau of Statistics (2018) Causes of Death, Australia, 2017 (cat. No. 3303.0)

Head injury and dementia association is stronger in women

This increasing and concerning incidence of dementia among women is reflected in the studies that have found head injuries even a single head injury could lead to dementia later in life. This risk further increases as the number of head injuries sustained by an individual increase. The findings also suggest stronger associations of head injury with risk of dementia among women compared to among men.

We need to take sports head injury more seriously particularly as younger women participating in full contact high impact sports is on the increase. ( Head injury and 25‐year risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s and dementia 09 March 2021)

Unfortunately, as an accredited sports trainer with Sports Medicine Australia I still hear "some parents and officials saying, "she'll be right mate when it is clearly not OK.

Concussion and all head injuries need correct management and prevention protocols in place.

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