A group of Canadian health organizations is calling for concussion protocols to be put into play for all sports involving any kind of contact.

In the September issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, recommendations put forth by the Canadian Concussion Collaborative outline the steps the group says are necessary to ensure athlete safety.

The CCC recommends all organizations for “high-risk” sports – including hockey, football, soccer and basketball – should have procedures in place for diagnosing and dealing with concussion.

“Best practices include (but are not limited to) planning for education, knowing the steps to take should a concussion occur, and ensuring that all resources are current and accessible,” the group said in a statement.

In addition to implementing proper protocol, they say health professionals should work together to share medical resources and expertise for managing concussions, especially in situations where resources might right now be scarce.

“When it comes to sports, we invest in safety elements for the fields, structures, lights, and change rooms and we buy equipment, but we also need everyone involved in sport to work together to develop safety policies to properly manage concussions, from prevention to return to play and beyond,” Dr. Pierre Fremont, president of the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine, said in the statement.

A survey of 44 organizations of concussion-prone sports showed only 41 per cent of leagues had concussion management protocol in place. Even fewer made it mandatory for members to adhere to those protocols.

And it’s not only sport bodies that bear the responsibility, says the CCC. At the top, government should be implementing policies to enforce safety in high-risk games.

“Concussion in sport is a public health problem and a major concern for those involved in high risk sports,” said Fremont. “We know that when appropriate concussion management protocols are in place, the number of actual properly identified concussions increases five-fold.”

Dr. Charles Tator, a member of the CCC, said national and provincial sport bodies should be leading by example.

“No Canadian should engage in high contact sport, at school, on a competitive or recreational club, without a concussion management protocol in place,” said Tator.

While primary responsibility for developing and implementing concussion protocols lies with the sports organizations, parents must also learn how to recognize a concussion and know what to do when one has occurred.

“Who do you go to?” Tator said Thursday on CTV’s Canada AM. “Does it have to be a doctor? All of those questions need to be answered for the entire country.”

Most concussions, if identified and treated properly, will clear up within seven to 10 days, according to studies cited by the coalition. The CCC said developing protocol for the early identification of these brain injuries can limit damage.

But the experts are not just concerned about how to identify and treat concussions. They also want to prevent the long-term consequences of suffering multiple concussions, which can lead to post-concussion syndrome.

“(Symptoms) can last for years and in some people the symptoms are permanent,” Tator said. “And then the end result in some of those folks with repetitive concussions is actual brain degeneration. And we’re very concerned that some players with repetitive concussions are going on to show memory loss, imbalance, (and an) inability to walk properly.”