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Knocking Out Concussion

3 June 2008

Knocking Out Concussion

Every week, over 450 New Zealanders sustain a concussion according to the World Health Organisation, with many more going unreported and undiagnosed. ‘Knocking Out Concussion’ is this year’s theme for the Brain Injury Awareness Week which runs from 3 -10 June and aims to increase awareness of the long-term and unseen effects of concussions.

The groups at highest risk of concussion are children, young men and people aged over 65 years, with approximately one third of concussions sustained through sport and recreation.

New Zealand Rugby League and the Brain Injury Association of New Zealand have been working in partnership to ensure that quality information is available to clubs in order to raise awareness and prevent concussions. NZRL are the first sport to take this proactive approach, and it is hoped that others will follow suit.

Rugby League legend Ruben Wiki is right behind the ‘Knocking Out Concussion’ campaign and the need to raise awareness of the danger of concussions.

“A number of our sporting greats have had their careers shortened due to head injuries from sport. Our sporting culture has a ‘harden up’ attitude to any injury where you can’t see any surface damage. But the problem with concussions is that although people look physically fine, it’s the unseen problems which have a long term effect,” said Ruben.

“Feeling sluggish and fatigued, mood swings, depression, memory loss and heightened sensitivity to light and sound are just some of the effects. A concussion can really knock you about mentally and emotionally for a long time. People need to be more cautious and take time to recover if they do get a knock to the head” added Ruben.

“In my own experience the fatigue factor when playing a game can really affect your technique, especially in tackles, so one way to help protect yourself against concussion is to make sure your technique doesn’t drop when you get tired,” explained Ruben.

The brain is the control centre of the body. It weighs approximately 1.5 kilos and is the texture of half-set jelly encased in a hard outer body - the skull. When a person receives a blow to the head the brain ricochets off the hard skull causing damage. The degrees of damage can vary depending on the force of the impact and in most cases, symptoms can resolve within 1-14 days. However some may experience ongoing symptoms.

“Although concussions may not seem life-threatening, repeat concussions have a cumulative effect. If you keep getting concussed, you could end up with a more serious injury or a permanent disability.

“A second concussion before the first has had enough time to heal can result in acute brain swelling and bleeding and could be fatal,” said the president of the Brain Injury Association of New Zealand, John Clough.

“We are a sporty nation and as a result we have a high rate of concussions reported every year. The impact on everyday life is enormous. The Brain Injury Awareness Week provides an opportunity to highlight the issue of concussions and we hope to educate people to not only take them more seriously but also to appreciate the on-going effects they have on people. We are thrilled that Ruben Wiki, and other prominent sporting and local identities are willing to share their stories to increase awareness and understanding about concussion,” said John.

The BIANZ has given the following guidelines for recognising the signs of concussion: The person appears dazed, confused, has poor balance and lack of coordination, responds to questions slowly, forgets events that occurred before and after impact or loses consciousness. It is always important to remember that a person can sustain a concussion without losing consciousness.

If you think the person has had a concussion ensure you keep the person awake and take them to the nearest doctor for assessment.

To make a donation to the Brain Injury Association drop into your local ASB branch, Stirling Sports, or Pharmacy@theWarehouse or look out for street collectors.

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