Suncorp Super Netball

‘Minor Concussion’ with Major Consequences

On Friday June 9, the eve of Round 10, the Suncorp Super Netball and Collingwood Magpies announced that star mid-courter Kelsey Browne would miss the game with what they called ‘a minor concussion’ sustained during their previous game against Adelaide Thunderbirds.

While many people’s first disappointment was for Browne to be missing such an important match against GIANTS Netball, many also showed their discontent with the terminology used in reference to the concussion.

“A concussion is an injury to the brain that results in temporary loss of normal brain function… It is defined as a clinical syndrome characterized by immediate and transient alteration in brain function, including alteration of mental status or level of consciousness, that results from mechanical force or trauma”.

American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS)

There may be lots of buzz words in that definition, but rest assured concussion is a big deal.

AANS further explains that mild concussions should not be taken lightly, and while some concussions are not as serious as others there is “no such thing as a minor concussion”.

Symptoms of concussion can include memory and concentration problems, mood swings, fatigue and headache – which can persist for weeks to months, this is known as post-concussive syndrome.

It is recommended that people experiencing post-concussive syndrome avoid activities that put them at risk of a repeated concussion.

AANS then goes on to detail that athletes should not return to play while experiencing these symptoms, and if they have experienced repeated concussions they should consider ending participation in the sport.

Several heavy contact sports such as Rugby League and AFL have been investing into concussion research and have very strict protocols related to player assessment and return to play following a head knock.

Netball, being known more as a semi-contact sport (although many would contest this label) have similar protocols in place but we do not see them enacted as frequently due to the lack of heavy contacts involving the head.

An interesting fact stated in the Netball Australia Concussion Policy (NACP) is that women are twice as likely to suffer concussion as men.

The NACP states that players must be assessed as soon as a concussion is suspected. In the case of Browne she played the remainder of the game after sustaining the injury, so presumably developed latent symptoms, which is not uncommon.

Even as recent as the 2020 season players have been sidelined by concussion, with Hannah Petty, Molly Jovic and Maddy Proud all missing games following head clashes.

Vixen Emily Mannix also opened up in an Athlete’s Voice article in 2019 about her experiences with a concussion she experiencing during pre-season stating

“The headaches, dizziness and fatigue were just a part of it…I had feelings of depression and sadness that were completely foreign to me,” she said.

She also made comments about how it took her three weeks to just be able to go for a 10 minute walk around her house, and that she was unable to even attend training as a spectator as the bright stadium lights would set off her symptoms.

While not all concussions are created equal, and some players are able to return to their chosen sport relatively quickly, others face a long road back to full game play.

With the risk of long term damage increasing with every concussion, especially when suffered in close succession, it is important that we start to see these injuries as just as significant, if not more so, than an ACL rupture.

After all, you can create a new ACL from a hamstring tendon, but new brains are pretty hard to come by.

By Georgia Doyle (Physiotherapist)

Header image by Collingwood Magpies Netball

3 replies »

  1. Reminds me of a game from last year when JLP I believe it was got walloped in the head with a ball but played the rest of the game. In the post-game interview she talked about how her vision went all grey when it happened and everyone laughed it off like a joke while I was seriously concerned about her well-being. I don’t claim to be a medical expert and I understand that symptoms can develop later on, but I would think that if there was a possibility of concussion the players should be pulled off the court immediately and assessed!

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