n South African Journal of Sports Medicine - Ethically we can no longer sit on the fence - a neuropsychological perspective on the cerebrally hazardous contact sports : review article

Volume 19, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1015-5163
  • E-ISSN: 2078-516X



The number of male and female contact sport participants is increasing worldwide. The aim of the review is to discuss the potential for deleterious sequelae of sports concussion (mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI)), and management thereof.

Incidence of concussion in the field contact sports is high, not only for boxing, but also for soccer, football and especially rugby. An overview of studies investigating persistent deleterious cognitive and symptomatic outcome following cumulative sports MTBI suggests that individuals may be at risk for permanent neurological damage following participation in a contact sport. Established sequelae of traumatic brain injury (TBI) typically involving frontal systems include cognitive decline, behavioural changes such as diminished self-regulation and aggression, and increased risk for Alzheimer's disease. The presence of such consequences hidden within the context of the widely popularised contact sports, has societal implications that should be acknowledged. Compromised scholastic abilities and enhanced aggressive tendencies in association with sports MTBI are in need of further longitudinal research.
A comprehensive preventive approach to the management of MTBI in sport is advocated that includes professionally applied neuropsychological assessment as a crucial component. Future policy considerations are the introduction of mandatory informed consent for participation in a high-risk contact sport such as rugby, particularly at youth level, and financial provision for concussion management amongst economically disadvantaged populations.

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