USA Cycling and the Medicine of Cycling group have released recommendations for treatment of riders who have sustained head trauma in cycling. Foremost amongst the guidelines is that any rider with a witnessed loss of consciousness during training or competition should be immediately removed from competition for evaluation by a medical professional trained in diagnosing traumatic brain injury or concussion.
“Concussion can occur without direct impact or loss of consciousness, and can result in physical, cognitive or emotional symptoms that may be evident immediately or evolve over days or weeks,” explained Dr. Anna Abramson of the University of California, San Francisco and co-founder of Medicine of Cycling. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 1.7 million people that sustain a traumatic brain injury annually.Concussions can occur during falls, motor vehicle accidents, struck by/against events, and assaults. However, concussed cyclists are more likely to have impaired function that could lead to a repeat crash, potentially hurting themselves and others. Those with previous concussions are at increased risk of repeat concussions and brain injury, and are most susceptible during the post-concussion period. This is dangerous in the short term and has long term implications of post-concussion syndrome.”
Medicine of Cycling, an independent group of physicians and psychologists working to improve processes that can have a meaningful impact on the way care is delivered to cycling athletes, recently formed the Medicine of Cycling Concussion Task Force which aims to increase awareness of concussion and improve safety for cycling athletes. The guidelines pertain to adult athletes only, as younger riders are even more vulnerable to brain injury. These guidelines are intended to educate cycling team managers, coaches and athletes on the symptoms and management of concussion in athletes. The guidelines are not a surrogate for evaluations by appropriately trained medical professionals.
The concussion statement issued by the Medicine of Cycling Concussion Task Force outlines actions team managers and athletes can take in the pre-season, tips for recognizing and evaluating concussion immediately post-injury and considerations for return to competition. The concussion statement recommends educating athletes on the seriousness of concussions and assessing basic neurologic functions in the pre-season. Following head trauma, the statement emphasizes the importance of cooperating with medical personnel and identifying key symptoms. For return to competition a slow, step-wise approach is advised once an athlete is asymptomatic.
Overall the guidelines recommend that any rider with a witnessed loss of consciousness during training or competition should be immediately removed from competition for medical evaluation. These guidelines do not imply that a rider who sustains a head injury without witnessed loss of consciousness is fit to ride.
The Medicine of Cycling Concussion Task Force also outlines a list of additional resources and contact information. View the full guidelines for concussions in cyclists on the Anti-doping & Health page of usacycling.org.
“Our intent in issuing this statement, is to both emphasize the seriousness of the potential risk of concussion to the cycling community; and also proved some insight into the current proven techniques for preventing and minimizing the effects of head trauma.”