More Education Needed Down Under


If you have followed our attempts at charting the Australian Rules Football concussions you have noticed my overt tone of frustration.  I have even proposed a “cover up”; that may be way more conspiracy than truth.  I do believe that I have found out a reason as to why we are not seeing more concussions in Australia in all sports, lack of knowledge.

In a Sydney Morning Herald story today about a rugby player there are some very SCARY things the doctors are presenting down under;

Doctors have cleared Berrick Barnes of concussion from last Saturday, instead diagnosing him with a less serious condition called footballer’s migraine, which might also explain some of his previous head injuries that have been put down to concussion.

Waratahs team doctor Sharron Flahive said that Barnes sustained a minor knock to the back of the head while playing against the Lions, suffered a delayed reaction of dizziness, and then had such a heavy loss of memory that he could not remember what year it was, which week of the season he was in, or if he had played for the Waratahs last year.

We are going to take this piece by piece; dizziness and loss of memory are obvious signs of abnormal brain function and should have classified this player with a concussion.  But in Australia they are classifying head injuries as “footballer’s migraine” (by the way FM is a term from research in 1972, 40-year-old information), wait until you see what else the Dr.’s are saying.

After being examined by his neurologist Professor John Watson at the ground, Barnes was diagnosed with an overlapping of two different conditions: footballer’s migraine, and transient global amnesia.

Dr Flahive said Barnes – who is likely to play the Sharks in Durban on Saturday (Sydney time) – would not have to fear any long-term consequences from the latest injury.

Any injury to the head comes with long-term consequences the brain cannot heal itself.  The article presents that this player has had A LOT of head injuries over the years playing rugby, but each one was again being dismissed as these other archaic issues.  They are defined in the article as;

Footballer’s migraine is said to cause delayed disorientation in athletes, and is usually caused by minor head knocks, but is blamed on vascular reactions rather than neurological ones. Transient global amnesia can be brought on by vigorous exercise.

I am sorry, but I have been around thousands of different athletes and NEVER have I experienced transient global amnesia due to vigorous exercise, however I have seen amnesia due to an insult to the brain.  Get a load of this quote from his doctor about why he was not diagnosed with a concussion;

”He seemed to have received a minor head knock and appeared to be fine, and then wobbled on his feet,” Dr Flahive said. ”It was not an overly forceful tackle [Barnes was hit at a breakdown by teammate Chris Alcock, who was joining the contest] with the impact to the back of the head. What was different about this was that he had profound amnesia … Berrick didn’t know what year it was.

”For that kind of reaction he would have needed to have been unconscious for a few minutes, not from one little knock. There is a thought that he had an overlapping of footballer’s migraine and transient global amnesia. The amnesia is profound but it is very quick, it shrinks, and after the game he could remember what he had for breakfast and that he played for the Waratahs.”

It reads like the doctor believes that the only way to sustain a concussion is to lose consciousness, which we all should understand is not necessary.  The very basis of a concussion is the disruption of normal brain function.  And what we have learned and preached on this website is that no one should return to activity with any symptoms, including a minor headache.  However down under they seem to be trying to find ways these players can continue;

Dr Flahive said it was possible to treat footballer’s migraine by giving players anti-inflammatory or migraine medication before games.

All of this information now leads me to believe that there is a very different approach to head injuries in sport in Australia.  Granted there may be a case of “footballer’s headache” where it is actually just vascular, but there is no imaging or diagnostic tools to know this.  It is plainly obvious that insults to the brain have been causing a lot of this particular player, and I imagine a lot of other ones, brain function issues.  The doctors, teams, and players must understand that if they don’t take this serious there could be disastrous outcomes.

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3 thoughts on “More Education Needed Down Under

  1. brokenbrilliant August 14, 2011 / 07:52

    Out of curiosity, I checked out Google Insights, to see if people in the rest of the world are interested in learning about concussion and brain injury.

    You can see what people are searching for, but at the moment, and over time.

    Check out the page at http://www.google.com/insights/search/#q=brain%20injury&date=today%2012-m&cmpt=q — and look at the areas of the world that are searching for “brain injury” information.

    You can also see a time-lapse of searches for “brain injury” here : http://sitebasics.net/bbbm/brain-injury-interest-over-time.swf.html

    Interestingly, the terms “brain injury” show more search results than “concussion” for areas outside the USA. So, it could be that there’s actually more concussion awareness going on, but because they use different terminology, it seems like it’s being completely overlooked.

    Still, we DO need more education – especially in those areas where collision/contact sports are a big part of public entertainment and the local culture.

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