Horse sport’s governing body the FEI joined four other major sporting entities as co-sponsor of the Fourth International Consensus Conference on Concussion in Sport in Zurich, Switzerland, this week.
The two-day conference, which was held at the FIFA headquarters on 1 and 2 November, was also sponsored by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), FIFA, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and the International Rugby Board (IRB).
IOC President Jacques Rogge welcomed delegates to the conference via a video message, before the official opening by FIFA Executive Committee member Michel D’Hooghe and IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
Delegates attending the conference represented several sports, including football, rugby, ice hockey, American football, Australian football and boxing, as well as equestrian sports.
Allen Sills, a US neurologist representing the FEI, was amongst the speakers at the conference as part of a panel discussion on how professional team sports and federations have responded to guidelines produced at the previous conference in Zurich four years ago.
“A presentation today by Paul McCrory from Australian football demonstrated that the order of magnitude of concussions in equestrian sport is higher than the incidents in soccer and American football, which tend to receive most of the focus in these injuries,” Dr Sills said after the conference.
“It illustrates the great opportunities, and the challenges, for the FEI to continue to educate athletes and to continue to improve our rules and medical oversight for competitions.”
Dr Sills has been put forward as a candidate to the FEI Medical Committee. His appointment is expected to be ratified by the FEI Bureau next week and he will assist the FEI Medical Committee in drawing up guidelines for concussion management in equestrian sport.
FIFA’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jiri Dvorak said: “What we are expecting is to develop very practical, simple, easy to use tools. With such powerful partners like FIFA, the IIHF, the IRB, the International Equestrian Federation and the IOC we can make a big impact.”
Professor Dvorak called for a minute’s silence in memory of Craig Ferrell, the former Chair of the FEI Medical Committee who died tragically earlier this year. Dr Ferrell was instrumental in introducing changes to the FEI rules on mandatory protective headgear which will come into force on 1 January 2013.
“Dr Ferrell was a true visionary in recognising how important the issue of concussion is on equestrian athletes,” Dr Sills said, “and also in making sure that we apply the same techniques and standards to the management of concussion in equestrian sport as we do to athletes in other sports.”
Peter Whitehead, Acting Chair of the FEI Medical Committee said concussion was common in many sports. “It is so very important that the FEI is helping with the sponsorship of this meeting, a gathering of the world’s recognised experts in the field of head injuries in sport. The conference will issue up to date guidelines for recognition and management of concussion in sport.”
Dr Whitehead, who addressed last month’s International Olympic Sports Federations’ Medical Commission Chairpersons conference held at the IOC Headquarters in Lausanne, is totally committed to the cause championed by Dr Ferrell and is determined that his work will be continued.
Also representing the FEI at the conference were the FEI’s General Counsel Lisa Lazarus and Catherine Bollon, FEI Legal Department Coordinator, with responsibility for Athlete Legal Services and Human Anti-Doping.
Lars Engebretsen, IOC Head of Science and Research chaired the second session on the management of concussion. “Many of the sports that the IOC is involved with have issues with head injuries and that’s why we are really trying to put funding into research in this area because we are trying to plug this lack of knowledge – that’s why we’re having these meetings,” he said.