Tour of Ireland Shows Need for New Model of Concussion Care

By: Dr. Michael Collins and Dr. Anne Mucha

As we passed through Galway, Cork, Waterford and Dublin last week, we were struck not by the rolling green fields and picturesque pubs of Ireland (lovely as those are), but by the enthusiasm and engagement of the more than 150 Irish clinicians who came to hear about our research and best practices for treating concussions.

After talking to doctors, physiotherapists, school nurses and others across this island nation, it’s clearer to us than ever that Ireland is struggling to care for patients with the same kinds of injuries that we see in the United States. Concussion crosses cultural boundaries and is not unique to American football.

When we announced the UPMC Concussion Network in Ireland less than six months ago, we were hopeful that the Irish would see the need for UPMC’s model of comprehensive concussion management, where we start with objective neurocognitive baseline testing and treat different types of concussions with different therapies. There are no dark rooms in our clinics, and we don’t turn off TVs or shut off lights.

On this trip, the standing-room only crowds at each workshop suggested that our message is spreading fast, fueled by the four Irish physicians and four physiotherapists who have trained with us already and who consult with us on concussion cases every Friday. Having several of them (Drs. Niamh Lynch, Enda Devitt and Sean Moffatt) join us on this tour to educate their colleagues and express passion for our program was one of the proudest moments of our careers.

While there’s much more work to be done — with the need to train more doctors and physiotherapists in Ireland and to broadly spread baseline testing — what we’ve achieved in such a short time is exciting to behold. Most importantly, we hope to do a lot of good for a lot of kids here, and we’re more committed than ever to working with our Irish partners to make our dream of “the best concussion care close to home” a reality in Ireland.