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More awareness needed of risks of concussion

More awareness needed of risks of concussion

PALMERSTON NORTH – Not enough New Zealanders, particularly children, are seeking treatment for concussion injuries, says clinical psychologist Joan Norrie of the Palmerston North Concussion Centre.

The centre, based at the University, is one of 10 in New Zealand set up six years ago by the Accident Compensation Corporation to assess and manage concussion and mild traumatic brain injury symptoms and help speed up recover.

About 28,000 people, just under 1 per cent of the population, are treated either by hospitals or general practitioners each year for mild traumatic brain injury. This is head trauma that results in confusion or brief loss of consciousness and brief memory loss. A further 20,000 have moderate or severe traumatic brain injuries.

But Ms Norrie believes the numbers treated, particularly for mild traumatic brain injury, are likely to be considerably lower than the actual number of people affected because many people do not seek medical advice following mild head trauma assuming, often mistakenly, it is not serious.

“It is important that people, particularly school children, with even mild concussion, go to the GP who can refer them to us, for specialist help,” she says.

“School children are especially vulnerable because even a mild head injury can cause temporary difficulties with learning, through attention, concentration, memory and fatigue difficulties.

“Teachers and parents need to be on the lookout for children who appear to be losing concentration or falling asleep after suffering a head injury, particularly if those symptoms recur for more than a week.”

Ms Norrie says parents whose children play contact sport should never take concussion lightly.

“They need to recognise that repeat concussions, particularly if untreated, can cause long term brain injury. If children suffer repeat concussions on the sports field, they may need a break or even consider changing sports.”

The Palmerston North Concussion Clinic is based in the Psychology Clinic at Massey. Team members are Dr Richard Seemann, a Specialist in Rehabilitation Medicine, Joan Norrie, Clinical Psychologist (Neuropsychologist) and Pauline Andrews, Occupational Therapist.It receives referrals from ACC, GPs and hospital emergency departments from Wanganui, Manawatu, Horowhenua and Tararua.


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