New partnership to tackle concussion in women’s cycling

by Sonia Blair


A new partnership looks set to tackle the issue of concussion in the professional women’s peloton. The Cyclists’ Alliance (TCA), a group created to represent the interest of pro women cyclists, this week announced it was working with the HeadSmart Sports Concussion Programme to help ensure riders’ “health and safety” while riding.

The HeadSmart Sports Concussion Program includes baseline brain function testing, concussion education and information on how to manage post-concussion effects on health.

The TCA surveyed its members, including riders from inside the women’s professional peloton, in order to understand the importance of concussion treatment and education to those who are, or can potentially be, affected by the injury.

TCA Vice Director Carmen Small said partnering with HeadSmart is the next step in improving the healthcare of female cyclists at races around the world. “They provide a great overview of pre and post-concussion assessment, as well as some education for the athlete and teams,” she said. “We are desperately missing this piece of information in our sport and I think this is part of the missing link to make sure we are taking good care of our brains.”

In 2017, Small’s own professional career ended due to a concussion injury and its after-effects. During Dutch road race De Ronde van Drenthe, the American was involved in a crash with a fellow rider who crashed into her from behind. Small then blacked out, resulting in a three day stay in hospital. Six months after the crash, Small still had daily pain in her head, neck and jaw. She had previously been majorly concussed in 2010, losing consciousness at the time. She also suffered additional minor concussions in 2006 and 2013.

The issue of concussion in cycling has been the topic of much discussion in recent years, with the crash of Latvian male professional cyclist Tom Skujins at the 2017 Tour of California further igniting calls for greater awareness of the impact these injuries can have on athletes. The impact of the crash quite literally left Skujins staggering along the road in a dazed fashion, visibly concussed. Yet, he was permitted to get back on the bike to continue riding rather than undergoing immediate testing.

The TCA will provide its members with free access to computerised baseline brain screening and the FirstResponder Concussion App to help recognise when a concussion has occurred on the road. “The short and long term impacts of concussion on both riders’ general health and careers are increasingly being recognised,” said Claire Rose, a junior doctor and former professional cyclist. “It’s fantastic that The Cyclists’ Alliance can now help you minimise these through their partnership with Headsmart.”

The Cyclists’ Alliance was formed to support women in the sport by former professional cyclists Iris Slappendel, Carmen Small and current professional cyclist, Gracie Elvin.

The TCA offers a full membership for female professional cyclists and an affiliate membership open to everyone wishing to support the organisation. Current or new members can contact the organisation to secure usage of the available concussion tools.

About the author

Sonia Blair is a journalism intern from the University of Adelaide, Australia. Some of her earliest memories as a child involve spectating roadside at bike races with her dad, eventually growing into a love for the beauty of cycling. Outside of late nights watching live European races, Sonia can be found sipping an overpriced chai latte or watching a Wes Anderson film.

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