This week, Mullins Lawyers attended the second public hearing before the Senate Committee, tasked with the inquiry and report into concussions and repeated head trauma in contact sports.
A range of witnesses made submissions and presented at the hearing, including academics, medical experts, lawyers, education groups, and ex-athletes.
Key discussion and commentary over the course of this second hearing included:
- the need for a consistent and unified approach to concussion across government and the sporting and medical industries;
- current insurance arrangements frameworks being inadequate and inequitable for professional athletes when dealing with concussion issues;
- the elevated risks of mismanagement of concussion or inadequate treatment and rehabilitation;
- the need for education from grassroots and community sport to elite sports;
- the utmost importance of rehabilitation and sound return to play policies;
- the particular effects of concussion in children and whether return to play policies should differ for children and adults;
- that an individual may not show visible symptoms yet still suffer from functional issues as a result of concussion;
- the challenges of reporting, tracking and sharing concussion data across all levels of sport (and outside the sporting arena);
- comparison of data (including incidence, symptoms and reporting of concussion) between female and male athletes and the particular challenges faced by semi-professional female athletes; and
- cultural and social issues around the approach towards concussion by stakeholders in sport.
All participants in the inquiry have a collective goal of an informed and unified approach to dealing with concussion in contact sports in Australia. Although there undoubtedly exists a need to do better in this space, we did observe a lack of recognition of the sporting organisations that are currently taking positive action in dealing with concussion. Rather, we heard an overarching theme of a ‘head in the sand’ and “finance / performance first” approach existing in governing bodies.
To date, no major national sporting bodies or leagues have made submissions or appeared before the committee, and we consider it would be of value for the Committee to have a full understanding of the good work that some are undertaking when forming its recommendations to the Senate.
Submissions and transcripts of the public hearings are available to the public online.
A third public hearing is scheduled for 1 March 2023 in Canberra with close of business for the enquiry being 15 March 2023. The Senate Committee is required to report back to the Senate by 21 June 2023.