A landmark conference raising awareness of acquired brain injuries was held in Kettering yesterday (Thursday 19 May 2022).
Medical experts, people living with a brain injury, support organisations and sports professionals took part in the day-long event, which examined two key areas – sporting concussions and the criminal justice system.
The conference was organised by the Northamptonshire Acquired Brain Injury Forum and featured a range of speakers, including former professional footballer, Bobby Copping, who shared his story after being forced to hang up his boots at age 19 due to a head injury.
Copping is now Peterborough United Women’s General Manager and has set up the Bobby Copping Foundation – providing mental health support to players, families and staff in various sports.
Also speaking at the conference, held at the Kettering Conference Centre, was Freja Petrie from Swansea University who presented on sports related brain injury research and shared key findings regarding head injuries sustained by male and female rugby players.
Philip Hollobone, MP for Kettering, led a session on the Acquired Brain Injury Bill. The Private Members Bill was first tabled in 2021 to make provision about meeting the needs of adults and children with an acquired brain injury; and for connected purposes.
The government has now agreed to develop an Acquired Brain Injury Strategy, with a consultation currently open and the strategy set to be published by 1 April 2023.
Speaking on the conference, Dr Keith Jenkins, chair of the Northamptonshire Acquired Brain Injury Forum, said:
“Northamptonshire is home to many people living with the effects of an acquired brain injury, often relying upon support from their families or voluntary organisations such as Headway.
“Our conference speakers illustrated the personal impact of acquired brain injury, the risks of head injury inherent in contact sports such as rugby, and the challenges that can arise for people affected by brain injury when interacting with the police or justice system.
“Having the specialised brain injury rehabilitation, residential and support services located in the County, Northamptonshire is well-placed to contribute to the government’s Acquired Brain Injury Strategy – demonstrating how to deliver exceptional joined-up service provision. The Northamptonshire Acquired Brain Injury Forum seeks to link our County’s brain injury community together.”
The legal landscape surrounding acquired brain injuries in the UK was also analysed.
Sharine Burgess, partner in Shoosmiths’ Serious Injury team and joint head of its Northampton office, commented:
“Every 90 seconds someone in the UK is admitted to hospital after an acquired brain injury. It cuts right across society, not just sport. That’s why conferences like this are so important – raising awareness of acquired brain injuries and the impact it can have on peoples’ lives.
“Shoosmiths is acting for clients with serious and complex brain injuries. While we recognise that it’s impossible to eliminate risk, we are committed to helping mitigate it as much as possible through education, while supporting those with an acquired brain injury to improve their quality of life and gain new independence.”
Also speaking at the event was the Project Manager for Headway UK’s Justice Project, Holly Warner, and barristers from 12 King’s Bench Walk Chambers – specialising in sporting brain injury. People living with the life changing effects of a brain injury also shared their stories.