Para athletes compete in a number of sports that come with an increased risk of head or neck injuries, especially concussions. However, a new report suggests these athletes may not be given the same amount of care or precautions as other athletes.
“The profile of the issue of concussion in sport has received much media attention, but none of this has considered the issues surrounding the para athlete,” Dr. Nick Webborn told Reuters Health. Webborn is a member of the medical committee of the International Paralympic Committee who published the editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Webborn and his colleagues on the medical committee say there were a number of injuries during recent Paralympic events that were likely to have caused concussions, but none were reported during the competitions.
During the Rio Paralympic Games, for example, the team found 10 reported instances of significant head and facial injuries. None of them were reported to include concussions, despite “suspicious” video footage of the events.
The researchers found similar data from the 2014 Paralympic Games, as well.
While the lack of regulations or concussion protocols makes it hard to discern exactly how many of these “head and neck” injuries were likely to have caused concussions, the researchers note that the athletes may not have recognized a brain injury at the time. The symptoms may not appear immediately and can be hard to identify without education.
Additionally, athletes often mask symptoms in order to avoid being removed from competitions.
The committee says it will be meeting with several international sports federations throughout the summer to bring awareness of the lack of concussion precautions provided to para athletes. They also encourage outside experts to join them in assessing strategies to help provide specific assistance and prevention methods for these athletes.
“Education is the first point in protection, and we need to improve this for both para athletes and the medical staff who may treat them,” Webborn said.