New data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows 142,000 people were admitted to hospital with a head injury between 2020 and 2021.
That’s effectively an Australian in hospital with a head injury every 4 minutes over a year.
And the 2,400 deaths attributed to head injury amounts to about 7 fatalities a day.
It comes amid an increased public focus on such injuries, largely driven by concussions in sport and its potential long-term risks.
A recent senate inquiry heard medical, scientific and sports leaders speak to the challenges of concussion management and made a series of recommendations in its final report.
The AIHW report titled ‘Head Injuries in Australia 2020-21’ shows:
- Head injuries account for 21% of injury-related presentations to emergency departments and 25% of injury-related hospitalisations.
- They account for 17% of injury-related deaths.
- Males make up about 55% of hospital admissions and two-thirds of presentations to emergency.
Two-thirds of all head injury hospitalisations and deaths are related to falls, and about an eighth are the result of transport accidents. The high incidence of falls may also be explained by people aged over 64 being the most common group to be hospitalised.
While sport often receives most attention for primetime on-field head injuries, the impacts of motor vehicle accidents and assaults are often more likely to send people for medical care. More than two-thirds of assault-related hospital admissions had a head injury.
Sport accounts for about a quarter of concussion-related hospital admissions. Concussion is considered a mild traumatic brain injury, which can result in a range of symptoms and possible further consequences if left untreated.
And while football codes are under the microscope for their management of head trauma, cycling accounts for the largest number of hospitalisations from concussion – about a fifth overall.
In September, the cross-party Senate Community Affairs References Committee called on a national sports injury database to track sports injuries across all levels of participation and professionalism, fund research into sport-related head trauma and develop compulsory return-to-play protocols. Similar calls have previously been made for national head injury registries.