Concussion – Does It Have a Role in Cycling


The awful crash in today's women' Olympic road race by Annemiek van Vleuten really gave the inspiration for this post. If you haven't already seen it, the cyclist somersaulted whilst tackling a technical descent on the course, and we are only assuming she suffered concussion amongst some other unconfirmed injuries.

Concussion is something that has hit the headlines more recently than anything. However it is a phenomenon mostly associated with contact sports such as rugby.

Concussion is something that is more prevalent in sport than you may realise, and for cyclists, professional or not crashing is an inevitable.

Dr. Anna Abrahamson of the University of California noted “concussed cyclists are more likely to have impaired function that leads to a repeat crash, potentially hurting themselves and others”.

The symptoms can often be vague, with bystanders and family not noticing issues, and other times they can be so severe the rider has complete amnesia about the event.

Symptoms of concussion usually fall into four categories:

Thinking & remembering




The most common assessment for concussion in sport is the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool – Edition 3, which calculates a standardised assessment of concussion score from a range of 22 symptoms, plus a cognitive and physical evaluation. Available in app form, there are several other concussion assessment forms and information available on the web.

Physical signs of concussion are nausea, constant or recurring headaches, inability to properly control motor skills or balance, a change in ability to see/smell/taste, dizziness or hyper-sensitivity to light or sound, a shortened attention span or distraction, difficulty focusing or understanding directions, and speech difficulty such as “finding the right word”.

If concussed, you should not drink alcohol, or take sleeping tablets or anti-anxiety medication. Your medical practitioner will most likely advise no physical and cognitive exertion. This means no computer or videogames, or reading, or TV. Sometimes concussion requires recuperation in a dark room.

When to Seek Immediate Medical Attention

Danger Signs in Adults

In rare cases, a dangerous blood clot may form on the brain in a person with a concussion. Contact your health care professional or emergency department right away if you have any of the following danger signs after a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body:

•Headache that gets worse and does not go away.
•Weakness, numbness or decreased coordination.
•Repeated vomiting or nausea.
•Slurred speech.

The people checking on you should take you to A&E right away if you:

•Look very drowsy or cannot be awakened.
•Have one pupil (the black part in the middle of the eye) larger than the other.
•Have convulsions or seizures.
•Cannot recognize people or places.
•Are getting more and more confused, restless, or agitated.
•Have unusual behaviour.
•Lose consciousness (a brief loss of consciousness should be taken seriously and the person should be carefully monitored).

With thanks to

The take home message is:

If you are involved in a crash it is wise to be suitably assessed.

Listen to the advice of the medial team around you.

In the long run it is important you think about your cognitive health.

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