A doctor checks up on a child

A Parliamentary Senate Inquiry into concussion has heard about the need to better understand childhood head trauma.

Professor Vicki Anderson, head of concussion research at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and a childhood brain disorder specialist, recently appeared before the inquiry, in addition to the Institute’s written submission on childhood concussion. 

Professor Anderson told the inquiry young people experience concussion differently to adults and could take twice as long to recover.

Concussion describes a mild head injury. This happens when the head gets bumped – causing a short-term change in brain function. Recent data shows that one in four children still experience symptoms one month after this type of head trauma. For adults, this is up to 10 days.

A third of children also experience ‘internalised’ mental health problems such as anxiety, and one in five show ‘externalised’ symptoms like aggression and hyperactivity, following a concussion.

Professor Anderson said that carers, coaches, teachers and doctors need to understand the unique effects of concussion on the developing brain. Not enough was currently being done in this area, despite improved awareness, she said.

“There’s a lot of work to do…to make contact sports safe,” she said. By in large, most kid’s concussions don’t happen in that context, so it’s not going to solve all the problems by just looking at contact sports.”

Murdoch Children’s is on the front foot when it comes to childhood head trauma research, working alongside the AFL to develop the HeadCheck app.

The concussion management tool is available on Android and iOS, and helps users recognise concussion early and manage recovery.

Researchers describe the app as a “diagnosis and management tool in your pocket” and is informed by the latest science. It is hoped that additional funds can be secured, so specialised child concussion clinics may become available in the future.

Parents and carers can download the HeadCheck app at www.headcheck.com.au