Nearly three quarters of head collisions at the 2016 UEFA European Championship were not assessed by medics, researchers say.
In a study published in the journal BMJ Open, a team of trained observers, led by neurosurgeon Dr Michael Cusimano of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, reviewed the 51 games of the tournament. The researchers identified 69 head collision incidents or 'potential concussive events' (PCEs) -- an average of 1.35 per match.
Of these incidents, 48 (69.6%) resulted in two observable signs of concussion, 13 (18.8%) involved three signs, and in one case (1.4%) there were four signs of concussion. However, only 19 (27.5%) of the PCEs were medically assessed by sideline healthcare personnel.
What's more, all 19 of the medically assessed PCEs concluded with the athlete returning to play following a brief assessment.
The findings -- along with recent headlines about Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen's controversial return to play after suffering a head injury in the Champions League semi-final with Ajax -- suggest there is a need to mandate the assessment and management of players suspected of concussion in line with recommendations set by the Concussion in Sport Group, Dr Cusimano said.
The Concussion in Sport Group has recommended that when an athlete shows any sign of concussion they should be evaluated by a physician or another licensed healthcare provider onsite and prevented from returning to play in the event of a positive diagnosis.
"It is now well known players in this sport have high rates of concussion," Dr Cusimano pointed out. "It's imperative that the highest levels of the sport assess potentially concussed athletes appropriately. Given the 'trickle-down' effect from professional levels to youth and informal play, the health and future performance of players at all levels demand that groups like FIFA and UEFA follow the protocols to which they were a signatory."