Traumatic brain injury an increasingly “hidden” threat

12th March 2018

The Laura Ferguson Trust is urging New Zealanders, particularly children and adolescents, who have experienced any head trauma to immediately seek advice from their GP to assess if they have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

“Thirteen per cent of New Zealanders will sustain a brain injury at least once in their lifetime, and it often goes undiagnosed and untreated,” said Kathryn Jones, Chief Executive Officer of Laura Ferguson Trust.

“It’s time we shine a light on this hidden disability and the effects it can have on society. Early intervention is critical.”

With few “visible” signs to indicate mild trauma, many cases remain undiagnosed. Mild traumatic brain injury or concussion, which is often caused by whiplash or a direct a knock to the head, can limit a person’s ability to function normally and symptoms are often invisible to others.

Common symptoms include feeling tired, moodiness, short temper, difficulty concentrating, intolerance of noise and difficulty with memory.

“The high correlation between violent behaviour and traumatic brain injury that may have occurred years ago is alarming,” said Jones.

“Newly released research* shows that Kiwi male prisoners have a four times higher rate of traumatic brain injury than the average New Zealand population.”

As a firm advocate of TBI rehabilitation and research, Jones says “society is paying a high price” for the growing number of undiagnosed cases.

“Appropriate screening and treatment for traumatic brain injuries in children and adolescents could help prevent at-risk youth from engaging in criminal behaviour, and potentially change the course of their lives,” said Jones.

“We have created a system of assessment, rehabilitation and support at Laura Fergusson Trust Canterbury. Together with the public, we need to make traumatic brain injury a mainstream focus and remove the stigma associated with the symptoms and behaviours TBI can cause.”

The Laura Fergusson Trust Canterbury plays a leading role in providing traumatic brain injury rehabilitation in the South Island, and aims to provide patients with the skills they need to return to their lives as soon as possible.

The Trust’s interdisciplinary team of on-site specialists include speech and language therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, clinical psychologists, neuro psychologists, dieticians and social workers who work together to provide an integrated approach to rehabilitation and recovery.

If you feel you may have suffered from a traumatic brain injury, please speak to you GP first.

For more information, go to:

About Laura Fergusson Trust Canterbury

• The Laura Fergusson Trust Canterbury is only one of two dedicated organisations designated to receive and treat clients with traumatic brain injuries in the South Island.

• The Trust is also the only organisation in Canterbury to offer the full spectrum of services, providing everything from post-acute traumatic brain injury inpatient rehabilitation, short-term care, on-going 24-hour rehabilitation and care, and home-based TBI-related services and assessments.

• It has a total of five beds available for specialist brain injury rehabilitation and 45 beds within its range of accommodation options for longer term care.

• Patients (referred to as clients by Laura Ferguson Trust staff) range from 16 to 65-years-old.

*Mitchell T., Theadom A, Du Preez E. 2017. ‘Prevalence of traumatic brain injury in a male adult population and links with offence type’, Neuroepidemiology 2017;48:164-170.

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