Key points

Last year, 17 year-old Ella was injured while playing netball in November. She was pushed and fell forward, striking her head on the court, resulting in concussion.

Ella thought she was okay to continue playing but became unwell that night.

“About four hours after hitting my head, I started feeling nauseous and was dry retching,” Ella said.

A few days later, a friend recommended Ella go to the Epworth Rehabilitation Concussion Clinic.

Ella said she missed three of her year 11 exams, and still had symptoms a month later.

“I had bad whiplash, headaches, fatigue and loss of concentration. I couldn’t study longer than five minutes.”

About 60 percent of the concussion 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.

Professor John Olver, Medical Director, Epworth Rehabilitation said most of the Epworth Rehabilitation Concussion Clinic’s work comes from GP referrals for patients who have slipped and fallen at home, or been injured in a car, cycling or workplace accident. However, about a third of patients are 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.

“85 percent of concussion patients are better within two to four weeks. 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. 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,” Prof. Olver said.

Prof. Olver said people treated early after their concussion are likely to experience better recoveries.

“Our research shows people who are referred early have a better outcome than people who are referred later. We have had people referred to us up to a year after their concussion and their symptoms are entrenched.”

It took Ella almost 3.5 months to be well enough to pass the clinic’s tests and resume game training. Ella hopes to be back on the netball court again soon.


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