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Government must ‘grasp the nettle this time’ on sport concussions, MPs’ committee concludes

Report calls for greater oversight over issue and asks ministers to help fund research into head trauma

SPORTS can no longer be left to “mark their own homework” on concussion, a parliamentary inquiry has concluded.

The digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) committee said ministers must “grasp the nettle this time” after previous failings.

Its report, published today, calls for the government to oversee the introduction of a coherent UK-wide minimum concussion protocol within the next year, mirroring the approach taken in Scotland.

It also says the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) must be more closely involved in sport, with committee chair Julian Knight accusing it of a “dereliction of duty.”

The report recommends that HSE works with sports organisations to establish a national framework for the reporting of sports injuries by July next year.

“The protections afforded by the state to workers apply as much to footballers and jockeys as they do to miners and construction workers,” the report says.

“We are astounded that sport should be left by the [HSE] to mark its own homework.”

It also accuses football authorities of taking too long to engage with the issue. It states that the coroner’s verdict on former West Brom and England striker Jeff Astle 20 years ago should have led the FA to take a stronger, sustained interest in the issue.

Astle’s death was ascribed to industrial disease linked to the repeated heading of a ball.

The players’ union – the Professional Footballers’ Association –should also have publicly hounded the FA over the issue, the report says.

“They are, however, only part of a broader failure to address the issue of acquired brain injury in sport,” it says of the two bodies.

The report calls upon the government to help set up a central research fund – where research is “seen to be independent” – and to incentivise sports to contribute by offering a degree of matched funding.

It says the government has been guilty of a “failure to follow through with practical interventions” in the past, on the back of previous reports.

“We urge the government to grasp the nettle this time, move past the concerns about how regulation may change sports, and take real and effective action,” it says.

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