Researchers examine the effects of brain injury in athletes

Aug 25 2014

By Dr Andrew Gardner

I’m a clinical neuropsychologist and researcher with a passion for understanding and managing the acute and (possible) chronic effects of mild traumatic brain injury in athletes. I have been working clinically in the field of sports concussion for approximately 5 years and conducting research in this area for around 8 years. During which time I’ve established some great connections with colleagues both domestically and internationally.
In completing my professional doctorate in clinical neuropsychology at Macquarie University, Sydney I immersed myself in the sports concussion literature and became well acquainted with the internationally impacting researchers, some of which I nominated as my thesis markers, others I attempted to connect with at international conferences.

One researcher who I became particularly fond of (my “academic crush”) was Professor Grant Iverson. I was very impressed with every article (of which there were many) he was an author on and when I had the chance to meet him and attend his plenary address at an international neuropsychology conference I was even more impressed. Since then I have co-authored multiple papers and worked on a number of studies with him and his team. He will be hosting me for a 4 month fellowship starting in a few weeks, which I am really looking forward to.

I have been fortunate to receive financial support to complete two fellowships at Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA.

The first was for 2 months in 2012 and the second (is the one I have alluded to already) that will commence next month. Our HMRI Life Governor Ms Jennie Thomas has provided tremendous support for both of these trips so it would be very remiss of me not to acknowledge her and thank her publicly for her generosity. The purpose of these trips has been to foster my collaborative research interests with my colleagues at Harvard and also to advance my own understanding and knowledge of the various neuroimaging techniques/platforms.

Currently Grant and I (along with our local colleagues) are collaborating on a few sports concussion studies. The most important of which I feel is looking into the long-term effects of a career in contact sports may have of neurological, neuropsychological and psychological function. At this stage there has been no published prospective research examining these aspects in as much detail as we have collected, so we are certainly excited to see what results we discover. Another exciting little project is the concussion surveillance study we have collected data on, which once again, is a topic (the video evidence of the aetiology of injury) that has had very few papers published.

I have also established some great collaborative links with Professor Huw Williams of the UK, who is another neuropsychologist with an interest in mild traumatic brain injury, particularly in rugby player, jockeys and incarcerated offenders. We have worked on a diffusion tensor imaging study in professional rugby union players that we hope to published the data on shortly.

 *** Dr Andrew Gardner is a Clinical Neuropsychologist with Hunter New England Mental Health Service