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Dr Danielle Salmon, Dr Kate Mossman and Associate Prof Gisela Sole are aiming to develop a concussion management policy for high schools.
Funded by the Otago Participatory Science Platform, the project has a focus on youth aged from 13 to 18.
New Zealand Rugby research scientist Dr Salmon said previous work conducted regarding concussion in community rugby highlighted the importance of ensuring stakeholders, including parents, players, coaches and health providers, had a good understanding of how to manage concussion.
‘‘When concussion happens, how do we educate people so they know what to look for?’’
When concussions occurred communication across these stakeholders was needed, she said.
Interviews and focus groups were conducted with stakeholders involved in high school games at the end of the season.
One outcome from these interviews was ensuring information on how to manage recovery was passed along from general practitioners or physiotherapists through to schools, Dr Salmon said.
The project was being led by New Zealand Rugby but concussion was a wider issue — for example, it could be a child crashing and hitting their head while riding a bike to school, she said.
The aim was to ensure what was developed supported concussion no matter how it happened, Dr Salmon said.
Prof Sole, of the University of Otago School of Physiotherapy, said concussion could be harder to detect than other types of injuries.
‘‘It might be a child who is more tired than usual or doesn’t like the noise of people around them.’’
A child might not even know they had concussion, or might dismiss a fall or event as a minor occurrence.
‘‘It might be a concussion that happened in the playground during break.’’
If an accident occurred at school the information would be shared, but if the incident happened away from school then teachers might not be aware of it, Prof Sole said.
‘‘The parents may know, the coach may know, but the teacher in charge of the student does not necessarily know.’’
New Zealand Rugby research analyst Dr Mossman said the aim of the project was to give schools the knowledge and skills to take ownership and management of pupils with concussion.
She was conducting focus groups with all stakeholders, including those within schools as well as the wider environment, such as boarding hostels, medical centres and sports groups.
If a diverse range of adults who had interactions with children had the tools to recognise potential signs of concussion it could minimise the time between an accident and treatment, she said.
‘‘We are trying to get everyone’s insights before we look at developing a concussion management framework,’’ Dr Mossman said.