Cashel rugby stars support ABI Ireland's information campaign

Acquired Brain Injury Ireland has launched the country's first comprehensive guide to Acquired Brain Injury. With over 13,000 people in Ireland affected by ABI every year, the publication of the guide will help individuals and their families understand the impact a brain injury will have on their lives.

Acquired Brain Injury Ireland has launched the country's first comprehensive guide to Acquired Brain Injury. With over 13,000 people in Ireland affected by ABI every year, the publication of the guide will help individuals and their families understand the impact a brain injury will have on their lives.

Men are three times more likely than women to acquire a brain injury, and young men in particular between the ages of 16 and 24 are at high risk. Cashel's very own rugby stars John Fogarty and Denis Leamy were on hand to launch the guide for ABI Ireland and to help create awareness around the growing 'silent' epidemic that is brain injury and in particular the dangers of concussion.

Speaking at the launch Barbara O'Connell, Chief Executive of Acquired Brain Injury Ireland said, "ABI Ireland celebrates its 10th birthday this year and over the years we have seen at first hand the devastating way in which lives are irrevocably changed by brain injury. For many, once they leave the structured support of hospital, they feel isolated and alone.

"This guide is extremely valuable because it provides a comprehensive overview of the causes and treatment of Acquired Brain Injury in 'plain English', so it is very easy to understand. It can easily fit in your pocket or a handbag so that it can be referred to continuously, and it explains what can be expected during the various stages of rehabilitation and the medical professionals and their roles at each stage of rehabilitation process", she said.

Mary Heffernan, ABI Ireland Midlands/South East Regional Manager who is based in Cashel also attended the event, commenting on the seriousness of this issue, "Damage to the brain from an acquired brain injury can result in a personality change and can affect memory, speech and language, mobility, sight, judgement, ability to cope with pressure and understanding of situations, concentration and the ability to organise oneself and their finances. All these affect a person's ability to take control of their lives and can lead to social isolation and depression. Financial and emotional strain on carers can be considerable" she expressed.

"At ABI Ireland we strive to make a difference by providing tailor-made services to suit each individuals needs. In the Midlands/South East region we provide a range of services, that are constantly developing and improving", she added.

ABI Ireland works to reduce the number of people affected by raising awareness of the causes of ABI. The organisations' 'Mind Your Head' campaign has successfully raised awareness of the importance of wearing protective helmets when cycling or playing contact sport. For 2011, the Mind Your Head campaign will focus on Concussion.

Dr. Mark Delargy, Director of the ABI programme at National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) and Consultant in Rehabilitation Medicine in the NRH and Beaumont Hospital spoke about the impact of concussion and the fact that the public in general do not recognise it as a pathway that can lead to permanent brain injury.

"Concussion is a considered by some experts to be a mild brain injury and as such people need to recognise the injury and treat it effectively just like they would other injuries. Following best practice guidelines will reduce the risk of longer periods away from sport and also the risk of sustaining permanent damage. After a concussion the brain requires a period of complete rest to allow it to heal.

"With increasing awareness of the levels of concussion being suffered in the sporting arena, sporting organisations in particular need to take a proactive approach, by creating awareness of concussion and putting in place agreed protocols for treating players who suffer concussion in training or on the field of play".

John Fogarty, the former Leinster, Munster and Connacht rugby player has spoken openly about the effects of multiple concussions suffered during his playing career. Bernard Jackman the Leinster and Ireland player has also spoken about the effects of concussion in his recently published biography.

Speaking at the launch John Fogarty said, "Whenever I got a knock to the head on the pitch I would shrug it off and tell people "ah sure it was only a knock", I didn't want to let down my team mates and I didn't want to be sidelined for an enforced period of rest. I never gave my body the chance to heal after these knocks and my family and I are now living with the consequences. To me concussion was a natural side effect of the game. I now understand the complexities associated with it and the need for the care of concussion to be highlighted."

Munster rugby captain, Denis Leamy added "We all love playing the game and we all want to give one hundred and ten percent to our club, our province or our country. Wearing a scrum cap while playing rugby, a helmet when playing GAA or whatever protective headgear is available to you is an easy way to look after your health and your future.

The lasting effects of the concussions suffered by John Fogarty include mood swings, irritability, headaches and fatigue. According to Dr. Delargy, "These are all classic symptoms of concussion. Our major sporting organisations need to make players more aware of the serious consequences of concussion".

ABI Ireland's Guide to Acquired Brain Injury is available from the ABI Ireland website www.abiireland.ie or from ABI Ireland, 43 Northumberland Avenue, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.

For further information on any of the Midlands/South East regional services you can contact Mary Heffernan, Regional Manager, ABI Ireland, Town Hall, Main St, Cashel, Co Tipperary, on 062-64544. Email mheffernan@abiireland.ie

About Acquired Brain Injury Ireland

Established in 2000, Acquired Brain Injury Ireland (formerly the Peter Bradley Foundation) was set up to provide a range of pioneering, flexible and tailor-made services to people with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI). The services provided by the organisation place a critical emphasis on client-centeredness, quality, effectiveness and value for money. Rehabilitation and clinical support are key aspects to the service.

Approximately 13,000 people suffer from a head injury in Ireland each year and face a dramatically altered life thereafter. People with ABI progress at different rates, and may need to access services at different points in time as their needs change. Within each stage of rehabilitation a range of different service providers is involved, which must be coordinated. Once back in the community the emphasis is on more extended activities of daily living, integration, and return to work or education. Interventions focus on enhanced participation, improved quality of life, psychological adjustment and carer stress. Acquired Brain Injury Ireland is filling a vital service gap, in collaboration with statutory bodies.