Contact Sports: Risks and the Importance of Safety

Sports are fun and engaging activities with positive health impacts, whether casual games of five-a-side football or professional martial arts practice. But sports also carry risk – particularly contact sports. What are contact sports, and what are those risks?

What are Contact Sports?

The term ‘contact sports’ is a catch-all one, designed to encompass any sports that directly involve close or abrupt contact with other players. Combat-related sports such as boxing, wrestling and martial arts are naturally considered contact sports, for obvious reasons; other typical examples of non-combat contact sports are rugby and American football, where tackles and scrums are an integral part of the way the games are played. 

Football is, in practice, a contact sport owing to the incorporation of tackles and direct competition for possession of the ball – but, in theory and with respect to its rules, football aims to be a non-contact sport. Basketball is a similar case here, where direct contact is penalised in favour of strategic defensive play.

The Risks of Contact Sports

Naturally, sports where contact with other players is in any way facilitated invite the risk of injury. While a majority of injuries incurred in sport are minor in nature, constituting strains and sprains as well as graze injuries and bruising, there are also some major injury risks.

Heavy contact sports like boxing and rugby bring serious brain injury risks, where tackles and falls can either lead to blunt force trauma or whiplash – both of which can cause the brain to ‘bounce’ around the skull and suffer injury. 

Over the past few decades, more and more stories have begun to emerge concerning a specific form of brain injuries incurred through contact sport activity: Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which describes the long-term effects of repeated blows to the head. CTE can result in changes to cognition and behaviour, as well as emotional instability and even seizures.

Safety in Sport

The growing awareness of serious risk in contact sports has led many local clubs and international organisations to lead initiatives that promote safety in sport. Anyone, however amateur, local or professional, that engages in a contact sport should at least wear helmets to protect their skull from injury. Other specific sports lend themselves better to additional body armour.

Managing a Sporting Accident

Still, even with protective equipment, sports can be dangerous – and accidents can happen. After a sporting accident that results in brain injury, the road to recovery could be unexpectedly long. In that time, there are many things to manage – from physical rehabilitation to cognitive recovery and even civil legal claims via brain injury solicitors.

Whether the injury is minor or major, support networks are crucial to recovery. Pastoral support can be provided by friends and family, but formal healthcare routes are essential for a guided recovery process.