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Brain injury

Charity aims to raise awareness of ABI in the classroom

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Children's Trust

The Children’s Trust has launched a programme to help education professionals gain a better understanding of how an acquired brain injury (ABI) can affect young people.

The initiative will be used to show teachers and carers the daily challenges each child with ABI faces.

Every professional in the education sector can access the programme, which features a number of 30 minute online interactive sessions delivered from a teacher’s point of view.

Users are guided through a school environment and shown some of the hidden effects of brain injury, including fatigue, memory issues and difficulty forming friendships.

The programme also shows the best practice teachers can take when it comes to offering guidance and support to these children.

Katy James, head of community services transformation at The Children’s Trust, said: “It’s a programme that we’re launching initially for all primary schools. It’s about working on the basis that we need to raise awareness amongst school staff at a general level about brain injury.

“The programme is giving an introductory level of information to school staff, so that they can have an understanding about how an ABI can have an impact on a child’s ability to access their education. 

“It’s very much about equipping school staff, empowering them and giving them the confidence to be able to recognise when a child might be having difficulties, and a bit of an idea about what they can do to help that child within the classroom.”

Statistics from the charity show that one child in every class will be affected by brain injury at some point in their education. 

For many this can lead to a long rehabilitation process – and returning to mainstream education is one of the biggest parts of this recovery.

Schools provide a form of ‘natural rehab’ for children, allowing them to experience a setting which other forms of rehab cannot offer.

Hence it is crucial for teachers to have an understanding of brain injury, enabling them to provide specialist support to those who need it.

“We use the term ‘hidden disability’ all the time,” Katy said. “Those cognitive difficulties, the impact on a child’s confidence or their communication is what you might not be able to see.

“Their sense of self as well, who they are as a person, all of those sorts of things can be really impacted by the brain injury.

“That can have a real knock on effect on their ability to take part in everyday activities and take part of their normal life, such as engaging their friendships and also engaging in the classroom. 

“There is a real need to be able to support people to understand and recognise those hidden disabilities, so that children can then get the right support they need.

“If you’ve got a workforce that is knowledgeable and who can recognise when a child is struggling, then they’re going to be able to really put things in place to help that child and allow them to reach their full potential.”

This new guidance follows an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) report published in 2018 which highlighted the need for a better understanding of ABI in the education sector.

The ‘Time to Change’ guidance showed teachers often have difficulties identifying the effects of a brain injury and that there is an overall lack of awareness of the condition.

Because of this The Children’s Trust has also launched a further part of the guidance which allows schools to expand their knowledge in this area.

Katy said: “The programme also then has a second layer, which is around schools who want to take their learning a bit further.

“They can really start thinking about how they can tailor their school environment and tailor what they’re doing, in terms of teaching, to cater for children with brain injury. 

“So we’re taking their knowledge base to the next step and to the next level. 

“There’s lots of other organisations out there and we recognise that this isn’t something that we should or can do alone, collaboration and partnerships are really vital for this work.

“We’re working with all the other relevant groups to help push for those recommendations from that APPG report.”

This is one of a number of actions the charity has undertaken since the report was published. It has also implemented a new five year plan launched to help ensure every child with brain injury has access to the relevant support.

A key factor involves the charity’s expert team sharing skills and knowledge on brain injury and how to help children deal with it.

The Children’s Trust recently put this into practice, helping UKABIF and the N-ABLES programme to create their own guidance on children returning to school after ABI.

To find out more and sign up the school’s programme, click here.

Brain injury

PFA leaders pledge to donate brain to Concussion Legacy Project

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Two senior figures at the PFA have pledged to donate their brain to research as part of the pioneering Concussion Legacy Project to protect future generations of players. 

PFA Chief Executive Maheta Molango and PFA Chair John Mousinho have both made the pledge through a partnership with the Concussion Legacy Foundation UK, following the lead of England Rugby World Cup winner Steve Thompson.

The Concussion Legacy Project, unveiled yesterday, will research Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and other consequences of brain trauma in athletes and military veterans in the UK.

PFA Chief Executive Molango, a former striker at Brighton & Hove Albion, Lincoln City and Oldham Athletic, said: “While being very mindful of taking immediate steps to protect current players, in the long-term ongoing research is vital to enable us to be able to answer more questions and best support members.

“We have been listening and engaging with leading academic experts, and they tell us that brain donation is a key piece to the puzzle in understanding CTE. We are excited to join a global network of the most prominent researchers in this area.”

Yesterday, Steve Thompson became the first athlete to pledge to the Concussion Legacy Project’s Brain Bank, with the former Lion previously stating that he cannot remember playing in England’s 2003 World Cup final win over Australia.

Today, Oxford United’s captain Mousinho, who has amassed over 500 league appearances over a fifteen-year professional career, committed his support for the project.

PFA Chair Mousinho explained: “Brain donation is an intensely personal decision for former players and their families. However, I have been inspired by the team at the Concussion Legacy Foundation and The Jeff Astle Foundation, and I have decided to commit my brain to future research in the hope that it can help play a part in protecting future generations.

“The Concussion Legacy Foundation has a strong ethos of supporting families and everyone affected by brain injury, and they are values we share at the PFA.”

Dawn Astle, who has been campaigning for two decades for football’s authorities to publicly recognise a link between the repeated heading of a football and dementia in later life, has given her full support to the new concussion initiative.

Speaking on behalf of The Jeff Astle Foundation, she said: “Brain donation is the most valuable gift of all for future generations of footballers. It may be many years before this jigsaw is complete but adding each piece, one at a time is the only way we will understand the true picture and make a better future for others.

“The Jeff Astle Foundation encourages families of athletes and veterans to donate the brain of their loved one to the Concussion Legacy Project at PledgeMyBrain.org.”

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Brain injury

‘We want to be part of the solution – for Bill and future generations’

Dr Judith Gates speaks to NR Times about this weekend’s football match organised by Head for Change, which will be the first ever to involve no heading of the ball

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The first football match which involves no heading of the ball will help raise awareness and stimulate conversation about the impact of head injury in sport, its organisers have said. 

The 11-a-side match, involving 25 former professional footballers, has been hailed as an experiment as researchers try to discover whether the game can function without heading, in light of ever-growing research which links football to neurodegenerative disease.

It is organised by Head for Change, the organisation helping to drive forward calls for changes to player safety, and will only allow headers in the penalty box for the first half and then restrict all heading during the second half. 

It will be held at Spennymoor Town Football Club, in County Durham, on Sunday at 3pm. 

The event forms part of the “legacy” for former Spennymoor Town and Middlesbrough defender Bill Gates, who has sports-related dementia, and whose wife Dr Judith Gates is co-founder and chair of Head for Change. 

Dr Judith Gates

“When Bill received his diagnosis in 2017, we made two promises to him,” Dr Gates tells NR Times. 

“One was to optimise his life and do all we could to make his life as good as we could as a dad, grandad and great grandad, and the second was for his legacy, to do everything we could to be part of the solution for future generations of footballers and their families not to have to face this.

“The purpose of this match is to raise awareness of the dangers of heading the ball and to provide alternative discussion with purpose. It’s an experiment to see what the game will look like. 

“To be clear, Head for Change is not suggesting heading should be banned, that is a decision for football’s governing authorities, not for us. 

“But we want people to realise the impact. Bill was a Titan to me in his 20s, fit and indestructible, so if this disease can do this to him, it can happen to anyone.”

The match has attracted widespread media attention and comes after an array of stark academic findings, including the research from Professor Willie Stewart that footballers are up to five times more likely to suffer from dementia than the general population. 

“Part of why I co-founded Head for Change was to be part of the solution,” says Dr Gates. 

“We’re extremely aware that there is a lot of bashing going on and everyone is saying it’s someone else’s fault, but lessons must be learnt from the past. 

“For too long we have been assured that our brain was safe in our skull, but we are increasingly understanding how the brain works and how it can be damaged through contact sports. Education will continue to play a very important role in what happens going forward.”

The match itself – which will also be raising money for The Solan Connor Fawcett Cancer Trust – will be held at Spennymoor Town’s stadium, The Brewery Field. 

The town is where Dr Gates grew up and met her husband, and in a quirk of fate, Spennymoor Town’s chief executive Brad Groves used to work for Bill as a warehouseman when Bill owned a chain of sports stores. 

The club, alongside those playing in the match, have been hugely supportive of their ambitions, says Dr Gates. 

“We’ve been amazed at the extent to which they have stepped up, Spennymoor have been phenomenal. Brad has been so kind in offering whatever he can do to help. We are hugely appreciative,” she says. 

“The players taking part are excited to be part of it, they may not be able to use one of their many footballing skills but they can use the rest of them. 

“Spennymoor is a small town with a big heart and we are so pleased to be able to hold this match, and particularly here, at Bill’s first club.”

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Brain injury

Marching to a different beat

NR Times reports on how Chroma is helping amputees prepare for prosthetics through neurologic music therapy (NMT).

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