Head injuries and concussions are continuing to rise in Australian sport, leading to calls from medical experts for significant rule changes to minimise potential harm.

According to the Australian institute of welfare, 83 per cent of all hospitalised intracranial injuries are concussions. In between 2020 and 2021, there were almost 3100 hospitalisations from sport related concussions.

The National Rugby League competition has been in damage control for a few years in relation to serious sports injuries. It is constantly experimenting with rule changes and has introduced independent doctors to every match day, however in 2023 there were 12 more concussions per six rounds of the competition than the 2022 season.

Former Sutherland Shire Rep Rugby League player Kevin Harbridge, 20, had to hang up the boots at the age of 19 after repeated concussion injuries, including serious mental and physical side effects which lead to his decision.

“I felt the full scale of the mental symptoms as expected when suffering from this brain injury, my mental health was not in a good place and I found that hard to establish with others leading to further distress and unclarity,” he said

“Battling the mental and physical side of this trauma was not lightwork and for the next couple of months I did notice a huge difference.”

Although we may not be seeing the results yet, the different codes in Australia are doing everything in their power to limit these concussions. In 2022, the AFL Launched a four year plan ‘Strategic Plan for Sport-Related Concussion in Australian Football’ to tackle this. This campaign was lead by AFL Players Association.

AFLPA Chief Executive Paul Mars said concussion “had rapidly emerged as the pre-eminent issue in our game.”

Concussion has now been labelled as sport’s priority issue. Sport Medicine Australia introduced a concussion and brain health statement earlier this year in collaboration with the Australian Institution of Sport.

“The Position Statement is intended to ensure that participant safety and welfare is paramount when dealing with concussion in sport,” the statement said.