A local rugby player had suffered concussion during a game and was ready to play again the next day, when an MRI conducted by Dr Andrew J. Gardner changed the course of his season.
“Another concussion on top of a concussion can be serious,” Dr Gardner tells us. “It’s all about managing risk versus benefit. The player made a full recovery and is very thankful for all the treatment we’ve done with him.”
This situation is part of Dr Gardner’s daily work life: working full-time as a Clinical Neuropsychologist, the co-director of the HNE local sports concussion clinic and also contracted to be the consultant for the Australian Rugby Union’s Concussion Advisory Board.
From junior teams through to professional players and then post sports career, Andrew is focused on looking after the welfare of athletes.
“I have started my own business, Neurogard, which delivers pre-season baseline and post-concussion neuropsychological assessment for athletes of all ages and sports.”
Andrew grew up in Teralba then attended the University of New England in Armidale to complete his Bachelor of Psychology, followed by completing his Doctorate in Psychology (Clinical Neuropsychology) at Macquarie University in Sydney and finally returning to Newcastle to complete his PHD in the School of Medicine and Health at the University of Newcastle.
Andrew’s thesis for his PHD on the acute and cumulative consequences of sport’s concussion in semi-professonal rugby players won the prestigious award for The Most Outstanding Dissertation for 2011 from the National Academy of Neuropsychology in the USA – the first and only time the honour has been awarded to a student outside of North America.
Dr Gardner’s academic excellency, among numerous other prestigious awards, has seen him gain fellowships to Harvard Medical School, where he was able to gain incredible contacts within the field of traumatic brain injury research.
“The best thing about Boston of course, is getting to see my Red Sox play!” Andrew tells us as he shows off his screen saver of his time in the box seats at Fenway Park and points out “The Green Monster”.
“I was only just yesterday watching the Red Sox win their 6-5 victory over the Yankees,” he says as he quickly replays the win on his desktop, the excitement still new. “I may have been yelling – just a bit!”
“I’ve always been involved in sports, from playing to following the games,” Andrew tells us. Although his love for sports has been rivalled by his drive for academic success.
“In 2008 and 2009 I was playing Premier League Bowls when I had to make the decision to quit playing and focus on the transition into full time academia,” Andrew says, “and that can be a hard thing to come to terms with. It forces you to redefine who you are.”
Andrew understands the importance of a sports career and helps players and patients through tough journeys when they have to give up a career early due to injury and rehabilitate their life.
This continues to drive him to sit up until the early hours some nights researching and working.
“I can sit up most nights, I just get lost in it,” he tells us. “I love what I do and believe I have these skills and this passion for a reason.”
Andrew’s itinerary is full of upcoming speeches he will be giving at high profile conferences around the world; papers and books he is writing; all the while continuing to develop his research into problems associated with sports concussion in athletes.
Looking at his extensive list, we ask how he manages the complexity of his commitments and he assures us it is with ease.
“My job is also my hobby, only I get paid to do it – but if I wasn’t… I would be doing it anyway,” he smiles. “I’m meant to do this.”
Andrew’s genuine character, enthusiasm and passion is revealed as he speaks about the wonders of the brain. For Andrew, his field is his calling – his patients and players are in safe hands.
Dr Andrew J. Gardner will be one of our guest speakers at Meet The Villagers on September 22, 2016 where everyone is invited to join in the fun to hear 6 speakers with 6 mins each to talk about their field of expertise. All funds raised going to charity. For tickets click here.