LONDON: Athletes who have suffered a concussion should not return to competition for at least 21 days, the British government has said as part of the first concussion guidance for grassroots sport across the United Kingdom. Previously, individual sports published their own guidance with the Rugby Football Union and Football Association (FA) saying the earliest a concussed athlete could return to play was 19 days for adults and 23 days for under-19s. In 2021, the government was urged to mandate a minimum standard protocol for concussion across sports following an inquiry by the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Committee (DCMS) to examine links between concussion and dementia. In a statement on Friday, the government set out guidelines developed by clinicians, academics and sports governing bodies, adding that they had been designed to help people “identify, manage and prevent concussion” in non-elite sport. The guidelines urge coaches, teachers and referees to immediately remove athletes with suspected concussions from the field of play. “Individuals with concussion should only return to playing sport which risks head injury after having followed a graduated return to activity (education/work) and sport programme,” the statement added. “All concussions should be managed individually, but there should be no return to competition before 21 days from injury.” The guidance was welcomed by the FA and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). “Research has shown the importance of fast and effective tailored treatment and we are issuing expert guidance to help people spot and treat head injuries,” Sports Minister Stuart Andrew said. “Whether used in a local leisure centre during a swimming lesson or on a village green during a cricket match, the guidance will make a real difference to people’s lives.” Former England rugby player Simon Shaw added that “it’s crucial that sportspeople at every level are protected.” The issue of repetitive head trauma has come to the fore in numerous sports in recent years. Earlier this month, a group of more than 150 former soccer, rugby league and rugby union players suffering from neurological impairments announced a class-action lawsuit against their respective governing bodies.