US Quidditch is currently developing a concussion policy designed to reduce the risk of players returning to play prematurely.
As a move towards greater transparency, USQ will be posting drafts of some policies as they are being developed, along with explanations of the need for (and goals of) these policies. We hope to gain better understanding from players on the importance and logic behind new policies, and also welcome feedback during the process. We cannot guarantee that we will respond to or incorporate any or all feedback, but we will review everything formally submitted via email (the link can be found below).
What follows is the current draft of the new proposed USQ concussion policy. The work so far has been based upon concussion policies of other major contact sports and best practices in the sports industry. This policy will be further worked on by USQ staff, and will also have input from various third-party concussion and athletics experts before being finalized. If you have suggestions for improving the policy, please email email@example.com
Please note that this is not the first step USQ has taken towards reducing concussions. At past championship events USQ has required players to take concussion baseline tests prior to the event (to facilitate concussion diagnosis) and also provides concussion education as a part of coach certification, a mandatory process for every team. Additionally, USQ requires at least one EMT or athletic trainer on site for every official game.
Concussions are one of the most important issues facing sports today. Studies suggest that between 1.6 and 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur each year, with 5-10% of all athletes experiencing a concussion each season. US Quidditch strives to stay on the forefront of these issues, and ensuring as safe a playing environment as possible is of the utmost importance to the league. US Quidditch strongly encourages all quidditch participants to remain constantly vigilant for potential concussions and to urge any individual who has potentially suffered a concussion to seek medical assistance. This policy sets guidelines to minimize the risk of escalating a concussion and optimize safe play.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a concussion is “a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works. Concussions can also occur from a fall or a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth."
Individuals can suffer concussions without blacking out; in fact, only about 10% of concussions result in a loss of consciousness. Symptoms from concussions can last for days, weeks, or even months. Most concussions take seven to ten days to heal, but each concussion is different. A repeat concussion that occurs before the brain has fully healed from the first concussion can slow recovery and increases the risk for long term health problems.
Concussions are very difficult to diagnose properly, and diagnoses should always be made by trained medical professionals. Almost 50% of athletes report not feeling any symptoms after suffering a concussive blow. Professionals will often make their diagnoses based on the following factors:
Symptoms (Dizziness, balance or coordination difficulties, nausea, amnesia for events surrounding the injury, cognitive slowness, light/sound sensitivity, disorientation, visual disturbance, tinnitus). Note that these symptoms are often reported by the person who has sustained the concussion and can be difficult to detect by a 3rd party.
Physical signs (amnesia, loss of conscious).
Slowed reaction time.
Failure to pass a concussion baseline test can also lead to a diagnosis and should result in immediate removal from play and a trip to a doctor. Note though that one can pass a concussion baseline test and still be concussed.
Remove from Play
All players, coaches, or referees who have suffered a suspected concussion (hereafter referred to as “the athlete”) must be removed from play until they are cleared by a qualified medical professional. This rule applies to all quidditch activities with an element of physical exertion, including but not limited to: tournaments, events, scrimmages, and practices. All official USQ events require an EMT or athletic trainer to be on the premises; the EMT or trainer is the first individual that should be consulted, and their approval is required for the athlete to return to play that same day. If an EMT or athletic trainer is not present (e.g. at a practice), then the athlete must be removed from play immediately and may not return until cleared by a medical professional.
A “suspected concussion” occurs any time an athlete sustains a blow to their head and exhibits any of the below observable signs:
All players, coaches, referees, and spectators are required to immediately report any suspected concussions, whether they themselves suffered the suspected concussion or suspect another athlete of having suffered a concussion.
If a player suffers a suspected concussion they should first be reported to that player’s team coach so that the player can be immediately removed from play and be sent for medical evaluation. If necessary, inform the head referee or tournament director so that play can be stopped and the player can receive treatment.
All non-players who suffer a suspected concussion should be reported directly to the tournament director who can facilitate treatment.
The athlete must not be left alone after suffering a potential concussion. Monitoring the athlete within the first few hours is essential. If there is any concern that the athlete cannot be properly monitored or that the athlete’s symptoms are too severe, the athlete should be taken to a hospital.
US Quidditch strongly encourages those who suffer a suspected concussion to seek ongoing treatment from a qualified medical professional. Many colleges and universities offer free medical services to enrolled students. Rest is the best treatment for a concussion.
US Quidditch follows the lead of many other major sports leagues in recommending that players follow a six step gradual return to play progression.
Note that these steps are best done in consultation with a medical professional, as the amount of time spent on each step depends on the athlete and the injury - in some cases, the athlete may be able to work through one step in a single day, while in other cases it may take several days or weeks to work through an individual step.
It is important to monitor symptoms and cognitive function carefully during each increase of exertion. Athletes should only progress to the next level of exertion if they are not experiencing symptoms at the current level. If symptoms return at any step, an athlete should stop these activities as this may be a sign the athlete is pushing too hard. Only after additional rest, when the athlete is once again not experiencing symptoms for a minimum of 24 hours, should the athlete start again at the previous step during which symptoms were experienced.
Six Step Program:
Step 1: Complete physical and cognitive rest and experience no concussion symptoms for a minimum of 24 hours. Keep in mind, the younger the athlete, the more conservative the treatment should be.
Step 2: Light Aerobic Exercise
The Goal: only to increase an athlete’s heart rate.
The Time: 5 to 10 minutes.
The Activities: exercise bike, walking, or light jogging.
Absolutely no weight lifting, jumping or hard running.
Step 3: Moderate Exercise
The Goal: limited body and head movement.
The Time: Reduced from typical routine
The Activities: moderate jogging, brief running, moderate-intensity stationary biking, and moderate-intensity weightlifting
Step 4: Non-contact Exercise
The Goal: more intense but non-contact
The Time: Close to Typical Routine
The Activities: running, high-intensity stationary biking, the player’s regular weightlifting routine, and non-contact sport-specific drills. This stage may add some cognitive component to practice in addition to the aerobic and movement components introduced in Steps 1 and 2.
Step 5: Practice
The Goal: Reintegrate in full contact practice.
Step 6: Play
The Goal: Return to competition
Return to play.
The athlete must be fully recovered before returning to play. Being fully recovered requires both being completely symptom free and written clearance from a qualified medical professional before they can return to play.
If there is any question as to whether the athlete is ready to return to play, the athlete must sit out.
Penalties for non-compliance.
Any tournament director who knowingly permits an athlete who has suffered a concussion to participate in an event without proper medical clearance shall have their TD certification suspended and/or revoked at US Quidditch’s discretion.
Any coach who does not promptly remove a player with a suspected concussion or does not promptly require the player to obtain treatment from on-site medical personnel shall be barred from participating for the remainder of the event and may be subject to further sanctions at the determination of US Quidditch. If a coach is found to not be in compliance with this policy at a practice or non-USQ sanctioned event, the coach shall be barred from participating at the next two events and may be subject to further sanctions at the determination of US Quidditch.
Any player who is discovered to have concealed concussion symptoms shall be barred from participating for the remainder of the event and may be subject to further sanctions at the determination of US Quidditch.
Any person who is found to have knowingly submitted false reports of another athlete’s potential concussion will be banned from participating in at least one event at the discretion of US Quidditch. The evidence must conclusively show that the person who submitted the false report knew for a fact that the athlete was not suffering from a concussion. US Quidditch will not punish any person for submitted a report if that person reasonably believed that a concussion might have occurred.