Rewind ten years and ask anybody about concussion and they would probably have had a reasonable awareness of the condition. In recent times, thanks to high profile campaigns, a movie starring Will Smith,  and the increase in incidence of this type of injury, player, supporters and their families are more in tune with the condition.

The consequences of an untreated concussion can be serious, including death, so an understanding of the condition is very important for those involved in sport.



Put most simply, a concussion is a traumatic brain injury that affects brain function though there are plenty of more expansive definitions out there. It is commoner amongst those who play impact sports like rugby, Gaelic games, soccer and American Football though all sports people should be aware of the condition. It is not an easy ‘back or white’ diagnosis for pitch-side medics and it takes experience and skill to be able to diagnose properly.

Classically, a player will have received an impact to their head or neck, be it an elbow, a clash of heads etc, whether accidental or intentional. In some cases there may not be an obvious episode that onlookers or players can pinpoint as the possible cause of a head injury or concussion. Symptoms will vary widely and a player does not necessarily need to lose consciousness.

Symptoms of concussion

  • Confusion or drowsiness
  • Double vision or blurred vision
  • Memory loss, dizziness or headache
  • Vomiting
  • Delayed reactions or responses
  • A lurching gait

What can you do if you suspect you or a teammate may be concussed?

Before you next take to the pitch or head along to watch a match, it is worth familiarising yourself with a basic ‘Concussion Recognition Tool’. If you are worried that a teammate is concussed it is best to adhere to the following:

  • Alert any match officials to stop the game
  • Ensure medical staff present (if any) are aware of a potential head injury
  • Allow medical staff to complete their appraisal, even if this means that a player is off the pitch for a long time, even at a critical time in a match
  • Listen to their advice and if they instruct you to come off, come off
  • Do not return to playing until you have been given the all clear
  • Follow up with any immediate or delayed appointments with an appointed doctor, GP or hospital clinic.
  • Subsequently do not leave a concussed player by themselves, they should not drive, swim or drink alcohol until given the all-clear to do so

If a player is recovering from a concussion, they should return to play in a phased manor as outlined here on the FAI website or below, thanks to the IRFU:


What can your GP do for you?

As GPs we are tuned into recognising the symptoms and signs of a concussion. We are not experts in the condition, though we can advise you and refer appropriately when needed.

Occasionally imaging such as a CT brain scan or a referral to a specialist may be needed but this is not needed for every head injury or concussion and most people get better with the advice as outlined above.

The mantra ‘If in doubt, sit it out’ is a useful one and is a handy take home message.

If you are worried that you have suffered a concussion and require an appraisal please call us on 01-8461335 or 01-8038881 to make an appointment. Alternatively you can e-mail us on

Posted by Dr. Niall