In a real first, sports and medics in Scotland have come together to produce really clear guidelines on identifying and managing concussion.
Concussion when not identified can lead to short and long term problems and can sometimes be fatal.
It is a tribute to Peter Robinson, Willie Stewart and all the other organisations involved that their are now guidelines right across Scotland on this important topic. They are launched today at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow event at Hampden.
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New guidance on how to manage concussion sustained during grassroots sport was launched at the Scottish sports and exercise medicine symposium at Hampden today.
The Government’s Chief Medical Officer, Catherine Calderwood, and Concussion Campaigner Peter Robinson were joined by senior medics from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scottish Football Association, Scottish Rugby Union, and the sportscotland institute of sport, who have all worked collaboratively to produce the new set of guidelines.
For the first time the guidance is not sport-specific, but is intended for the general public and grassroots participants across all sports, particularly where medics may not be in attendance.
Clear advice is given to ensure that concussion can be recognised quickly and managed effectively from the initial injury to a phased return to play using World Rugby’s latest guidelines.
The overriding message is that ALL concussions are serious and if in doubt, sit them out!
Speaking at the launch, Scottish Government’s Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood said:
“As a mother and a doctor, I know that regular exercise is one of the best things we can do for our health – both physical and mental health.
“Unfortunately injuries happen and when concussion occurs we cannot afford to take chances – you only get one brain.
“When recognised and managed properly, the vast majority of concussed patients will recover completely, but if not recognised, or not treated properly then concussion can even be fatal.
“Peter Robinson, who tragically lost his son Ben after sustaining a concussion in a school match, has helped bring sport and medicine together to produce clear guidelines for understanding and managing concussion in Scotland, and we urge parents, coaches, schools, sports organisations and health professionals to use the Scottish Sports Concussion Guidelines”.
Concussion Campaigner Peter Robinson, from Northern Ireland, whose son Ben died in 2011 as a result of sustaining a double concussion during a school rugby match when he was only 14 years old, was delighted to support the launch.
Peter said:
“Awareness of the dangers of concussion in sport is improving since we lost Ben but there’s still a long way to go, both in grassroots and professional sport.  For too long concussion has not been taken seriously, and that has to change.
“With these guidelines we want to help those involved in sport, any sport, to recognise the signs of concussion and know how to deal with it there and then.  If you have any doubts then don’t take the risk, sit them out and get them checked out.
“We are not saying that you shouldn’t take part in sport, far from it, there are many benefits to taking part in sport.  However there are ways to make it safer and what could be more important than that?”
A team of eminent sports medics worked together to produce the guidelines, which they hope will enable those involved in sport at every level to understand how to respond to suspected concussion and reduce the risks, particularly for children and young adults.
Dr Willie Stewart, consultant neuropathologist, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, is the driving force behind bringing everyone together on this project:
“It is a significant achievement to establish a single, shared set of guidelines for sports concussion management across all Scottish grassroots and amateur sports.
“Through these guidelines, we have achieved a global first, right here in Scotland. However and more importantly for the management of concussion, we now have one definitive set of guidelines for everyone, no matter the sport or activity”.
Scottish International athlete Dr Andrew Murray from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, and University of Edinburgh, added:
“We know that taking part in sport and physical activity has massive health benefits – helping participants be happier and healthier but it is not without risk. If not recognised and managed properly, concussion can lead to health problems and can even be fatal.
“These guidelines are crystal clear. We need to take concussion seriously and remove anyone with a suspected concussion from the field of play: if in doubt, sit them out.
“This is important for relatives, coaches, schools and health professionals amongst others to have guidance on. Recognising concussion and removing that player from the field of play for medical attention is the safe and the right thing to do”.
Echoing that advice, Dr John MacLean from the Scottish Football Association said:
“The Scottish Football Association supports an ongoing programme of Sports First Aid training in football and these guidelines complement this knowledge.
“Concussion is a serious brain injury and the guidelines make the recognition of concussion and return to play clear for all involved in grassroots sport. If in doubt – sit them out”.
Scottish Rugby Chief Medical Officer, Dr James Robson, said:
“Sports-related concussion has required a cultural change.
“No longer should concussion be seen as a badge of honour but, rather, as a potentially serious medical problem.
“The guidelines provide the most up-to-date, best practice for all sports. The mantra has to be ‘you only get one head, use it, don’t lose it.”
Also attending the launch was Dr Niall Elliott from the sportscotland institute of sport, who said:
“At the sportscotland institute of sport we work with athletes at the performance end of the sports pathway. When those athletes compete on the world stage, there will be a qualified medic in place to identify and manage a suspected concussion, using established protocols.
“However, the majority of concussions do not take place at that level but involve people competing in grassroots sport, particularly children and young adults.  What this guide is designed to do, is to simplify the guidelines already in place so that they can be easily understood and implemented by members of the public.  The ultimate aim is to make sports participation safer, irrespective of what sport that is or where it is played”.
Professor Frank Dunn CBE, President, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow added:
“Concussion as a consequence of a sports injury provides a clear warning sign of impending serious complications. The evidence for this is incontrovertible and therefore the implementation of these well thought through and clearly set out guidelines is a major step forward in protecting participants from permanent brain damage.
“The pressure to get participants back on to the field of play must be resisted and acceptance of these guidelines by all will go a long way towards providing the best possible care for victims of concussion and potentially more serious brain injuries”.
Karen McCall, Senior Media Officer, sportscotland
T: 0141 534 6588 M: 07787 151015
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow:
Elaine Mulcahy 07757 021595 / 0141 2273204 /
Notes to Editors:

  • The Scottish Sports Concussion guidelines can be found on the sportscotland website at:
  • The guidelines were launched at the Scottish sports and exercise medicine symposium organised by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. The symposium is a major international event attended by more than 180 professionals in medicine and sport and features presentations from world leading experts including Sir Alex Ferguson and Dr Luis Serratosa (Real Madrid team doctor).  A full programme can be downloaded here. Contact Elaine Mulcahy (contact details above) for further information about the event.