Don’t Play with my Concussion | Event Recording & Resources

GUESTS: Prof. Jon Patricios, director and founder sports concussion south Africa; Dr. Leigh Gordon, CAPE sports medicine, south africa

On Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021 we hosted our first event in our sports medicine series. Prof. Jon Patricios, South Africa, and Dr. Leigh Gordon, South Africa, joined ShePower Sport. We also hosted Rebecca McConnell, a young hockey player who shared her story of how a concussion disrupted her final high school year. Prof. Patricios explained: “A concussion may affect nearly any aspect of your life.Let’s all work together and not allow anyone to play with a concussion.

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Watch Our Discussion on Don't Play with my Concussion here

A concussion is a trauma-induced disruption of brain function usually without visible damage even on brain scan images. Since female athletes around the world participate more and more in sports that are considered high-risk for concussion, we have learned a lot about differences between the genders. Females suffer concussions more frequently, have more severe symptoms, and take longer to recover than male athletes.

In this webinar, Prof. Jon Patricios, an internationally renowned sports concussion specialist and founder and Director of Sports Concussion South Africa, lays out what we know today about concussion and the differences between female and male athletes in how they experience concussion and what this means for their recovery. Dr. Leigh Gordon’s interview with Rebecca McConnell illustrates why it is not a good idea to play through.

Key Learnings from the discussion

What is a concussion?

  • A complex reaction and process in the brain after a rapid, sudden movement of the head after an impact.
  • It is a functional injury: an invisible “brain strain.”
  • You do not need to hit your head to suffer a concussion.
  • There is no visible wound.
  • Mostly, X-rays and MRIs show no damage to the skull or brain.

How do you know you have suffered a concussion?

There are various symptoms of a concussion that depend on the severity and the brain area that is concerned and can occur with a delay of several days:

  • Headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting
  • Confusion, memory loss
  • Coordination and balance problems
  • Blurry vision 
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood changes, anxiety, depression, agitation
  • Sleep disturbances 

Female athletes

Females react differently from males: They are more vulnerable to concussion and have more and more severe symptoms, take longer to recover, and their thinking and reaction time is more severely affected. Furthermore, females do not react well to rest during their recovery.

What is your role in the concussion team?

Everyone has to identify their role: Athlete + coach + teammates + athletic trainer + referee/organizer + team physician + general practitioner + parents + other family members

There are 11 R’s of concussion, but these are the ones we all want to know

  • Recognize
  • Remove
  • Re-evaluate

Red flags if you suffered a concussion

  • Previous concussions
  • Neck pain or tenderness
  • Double vision
  • Weakness or tingling in your arms or legs
  • Severe or increasingly severe headache
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Loss of consciousness (particularly > 1 min) or deteriorating state of consciousness
  • Vomiting
  • Increasingly restless, agitated, or combative
  • Having symptoms for more than 10 days

An incompletely managed concussion may

  • cause you ongoing symptoms
  • result in more concussions
  • contribute to other injuries, for example, musculoskeletal injuries!
  • affect your entire life


  • You should rest your brain for the first 24 hours after a concussion.
  • Return to sport is gradual and based on your symptoms.
  • Aerobic exercise may help particularly female athletes to recover better.

Questions and Answers

What do we know about the female menstrual cycle and how it affects concussion symptoms and recovery?

Oestrogens seem to have a protective effect in female concussions, and female athletes might react differently in the first half of their cycle than in the second half. 

Are there gender biases in how concussion is diagnosed and treated and can equality training in sport help with that? 

There are definitely gender biases (e.g., conditioning, accessible care). But biological factors cannot be denied, such as neck muscle strength and hormone levels.

Any symptoms related to their heart, such as a racing pulse, extra beats, pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, or unusual exhaustion after small efforts should be investigated


Fieldside concussion assessment for lay persons

Please access here: 

The South African Sports Concussion programme

The programme developed by Prof. Patricios offers a varied and comprehensive resource for athletes, the entire team entourage, physicians, schools, and sports organisations.


The first ever platform dedicated to female brain injury from sports and other causes. Anything from athletes’ stories to expert videos and support groups.


Everything about what concussions are, how you recognize them, when to return to sport plus sports-specific information. 

About Professor Jon Patricios

Prof. Jon Patricios is the founder and Director of Sports Concussion South Africa and a sports concussion consultant to the South African Rugby Union, where he developed the concussion protocols for their prevention programme. He is a member of the World Rugby Concussion Advisory Group and a board member of the International Concussion in Sports Group, where he co-authored the 5th International Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport. Jon developed the Sports Concussion Office Assessment Tool (SCOAT), a clinical assessment tool for concussion and was a member of the 2016 Sports Concussion Assessment 5 (SCAT5) and Child SCAT 5 working and writing groups.

Concussion expert

About Doctor Leigh Gordon

Dr. Leigh Gordon is a Sports & Exercise Medicine physician who has studied extensively, both locally and overseas. She is very busy as the team doctor for the Springbok Sevens Rugby men’s and women’s teams since 2015. Dr Gordon is the Medical trainer for World Rugby Immediate Care in Rugby as well as the Medical Officer for the International Field Hockey federation. She is one of the three founding partners at Cape Sports Medicine, in Cape Town, South Africa.

Concussion expert


  • Behind ShePower Sport are two sport medical professionals, Yoko Dozono and Katharina Grimm. With their combined global sporting background, some of which include Director of Medical affairs at Aspetar, member of Medicine & Science at World Anti-Doping Agency, heading the FIFA medical office, and an international level athlete, they are strong advocates for clean sports and female athletes’ health and rights.