As the winter sport season approaches, Epworth HealthCare is putting the focus on recovering from concussion.
It is an issue that can affect players of all ages, and all sports, including 17-year-old Ella, who was injured playing netball in November last year.
Ella said she was pushed, and fell, hitting her head on the court which resulted in a concussion.
Initially, she thought she was okay to keep playing.
“But about four hours after hitting my head, I started feeling nauseous and I was dry retching,” Ella said.
A friend recommended Ella attend the Epworth Rehabilitation Concussion Clinic.
“I had bad whiplash, headaches, fatigue and loss of concentration,” Ella said.
“I couldn’t study longer than five minutes.”
Ella still had symptoms a month later and missed three of her Year 11 exams.
The Epworth Rehabilitation Concussion Clinic opened in 2017 and treats around 150 patients each year.
About 60 percent of the clinic’s patients have been concussed more than once, with symptoms ranging from dizziness, headaches and neck injuries to anxiety and depression in more severe cases.
Epworth Rehabilitation’s medical director, Professor John Olver, said most of the Epworth Rehabilitation Concussion Clinic’s work came from General Practitioner referrals for patients who had slipped and fallen at home, or been injured in a car, cycling or workplace accident.
However, about a third of patients were injured while playing sport.
“We have treated AFLW players and junior athletes injured in accidents playing soccer, basketball, rugby union, hockey or netball,” Prof. Olver said.
“Up to 85 percent of concussion patients are better within two to four weeks, but 15 percent go on to have post-concussion syndrome that causes several symptoms.
“Our concussion clinic program has a lot of therapies aimed at helping to turn off symptoms and try to get patients back to a normal life.”
The clinic combines doctors, clinical and neuro psychologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, exercise physiologists, speech therapists and dieticians, with the aim of slowly getting patients back to their normal life – work, school, driving – through a multidisciplinary approach.
“We talk about people pacing their day,” Prof. Olver said.
“In the past, people would just take to their bed to recover but we get them to keep a certain level of activity going and slowly increase it, while managing their symptoms.”
He added people treated early after their concussion were likely to experience better recoveries.
“Our research shows people who are referred early have a better outcome than people who are referred later,” Prof. Olver said.
“We have had people referred to us up to a year after their concussion and their symptoms are entrenched.”
It took Ella almost four months to be well enough to pass the clinic’s tests and resume training.
She hopes to be back out on the netball court again soon.