Brain Injury Australia Meets With New South Wales Chief Health Officer to Call for Statewide Response to Post-Concussion Syndrome/“Mild” Traumatic Brain Injury

Brain Injury Australia’s Executive Officer, Nick Rushworth and Director, Richard McKinnon met recently with Dr. Kerry Chant – NSW’s Chief Health Officer, Dr. Adeline Hodgkinson – Clinical Director of NSW’s Brain Injury Rehabilitation Directorate, and other senior members of NSW Ministry of Health staff to recommend an urgent, statewide, specialist health service response to post-concussion syndrome (PCS) and “mild” traumatic brain injury (mTBI) be implemented alongside linkages from primary care and General Practitioner education.

“BIA knows that today large numbers of people are living in the community with persistent, disabling symptoms of PCS and mTBI,” says Nick. “BIA estimates the numbers as significantly higher than currently reported and the issue more widespread than officially understood.”

“Currently, the NSW public hospital response is limited to a recently opened Concussion Clinic at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, and services dedicated to sports concussion at Children’s Hospital Westmead and John Hunter Hospital,” says Nick. “We know NSW needs a well-thought plan to offer relief and guidance because the math on PCS and mTBI is as stark as it’s clear. The last time national incidence data was collected was in 2004-2005. In that year, 23,000 people were hospitalised with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The rough rule of thumb is around 80 per cent of those TBIs are going to be designated ‘mild’. And all but around, say, 10 to 20 per cent of the 18,000 of those people with mTBIs could have expected to have made a full recovery within 3 to 6 months. That still leaves 3,000 or so people who…didn’t – what the literature refers to as the ‘miserable minority’, those with persistent ongoing symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and problems with everything from short-term memory through to balance.”

“But that’s not all, clearly.” Nick continues. “Every year in Australia more than 3,000 people are hospitalised after being concussed, just from playing sport. But triple that number won’t seek medical attention. And as many as ten times that number won’t even report their concussion to teammates, coaches or family because they may fear being removed from play. Or they don’t even know they’re concussed. Nine out of ten people hospitalised with concussion don’t recognise the injury. And then you’ve got to remember that, when our public hospitals are under such cost pressures, most people who present at casualty with ‘mild’ injuries won’t be admitted. Though the ‘tip of the iceberg’ analogy is over-used, the true numbers of people long-suffering ‘mild’ injury is anyone’s guess,” Nick concludes.

Further meetings between Brain Injury Australia and NSW Health are scheduled, with the Ministry of Health now working on answers to the questions raised in the meeting, to report back to Brain Injury Australia within two months.

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