Coffs Harbour professor Dr Jim Donnelly has devoted much of his career to investigating the impact of mild traumatic brain injury or concussion in children and adults.
Coffs Harbour professor Dr Jim Donnelly has devoted much of his career to investigating the impact of mild traumatic brain injury or concussion in children and adults.

Sporting head injury awareness being led by Coffs professor

A COFFS Harbour professor is leading the way in teaching NSW school kids about the dangers of head injuries in sport.

About 400 Year 6-12 Armidale school students will take part in an Australia-first concussion management program, led by Southern Cross University psychology researcher Dr Jim Donnelly.

The project will offer internet-based testing to establish a baseline for each student so if a concussion occurs in the future, researches can compare individual post-injury performance to pre-injury test scores and symptoms.

Dr Donnelly has devoted much of his career to investigating the impact of mild traumatic brain injury or concussion in children and adults.

He said there was "very good evidence" to suggest cumulative concussions increased the risk of emotional, behavioural and academic problems in children and also dementia later in life.

He feared a toxic culture, which encouraged children and adults to continue playing, even after suffering a head injury, remained in many sports.

"Only about 10% of concussions result in a complete loss of consciousness," Dr Donnelly said.

"Concussion is any altered state of consciousness, from momentarily feeling slightly dizzy or disorientated, losing your sense of balance to getting knocked out.

"If a child or teenager is concussed they need to come off the field and stay off until they are properly assessed."

At the TAS boarding and day-school, every child, not just athletes, will undertake baseline testing using a series of brief online tests, developed by Axon Sports.

The tests measure reaction time, attention and memory, and a symptom checklist recommended by international experts will be used to note other concussion effects.

Headmaster Murray Guest said while sport was "intrinsically valuable for physical, social and mental development, it came with a very real responsibility to ensure the long-term risks of damage were reduced.

He hoped the test results would help his school manage concussion and provide a model which could be followed by others.

SCU has submitted a funding application to the National Health and Medical Research Council in the hope the program will be rolled out to rural and regional schools across the country.


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