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How does the neck contribute to post-concussion symptoms?

Research profile

Concussion injuries are characterised by a broad range of symptoms such as headache, dizziness, neck pain, cognitive and emotional disturbance. A particular challenge is that concussion injuries can injure the brain, vestibular and visual systems, the neck, and more – all of which are capable of contributing to symptoms. To help individuals with persistent post-concussion symptoms effectively, our research team think it is important to understand the underlying sources of symptoms and tailor treatment appropriately.


Our main focus is to better understand how the neck contributes to persistent post-concussion symptoms. The neck is known to cause headaches, dizziness and neck pain, which can be effectively treated with physiotherapy. A further research interest is in better understanding the mechanisms by which physiotherapy treatment (particularly manual therapy) influences these and other common post-concussion symptoms, as this could lead to better treatment choices.

This project area is led by Dr Ewan Kennedy


Current projects

Retrospective review

Exploring the characteristics of patients with concussion symptoms referred for neck assessment and treatment by analysing a series of patient notes from a local physiotherapist – Mr Dusty Quinn from Back in Motion Ltd.

Research team:

  • Dr Ewan Kennedy (University of Otago)
  • Mr Dusty Quinn (Back in Motion Ltd.)
  • Dr Steve Tumilty (University of Otago)
  • Dr Cathy Chapple (University of Otago)

Prospective case series

In collaboration with local Physiotherapists and ACC concussion service providers we are working on a prospective study to describe the contribution of the neck to persistent post-concussion symptoms, with particular attention to headaches, dizziness and/or neck pain.

Research team:

  • Dr Ewan Kennedy (University of Otago)
  • Mr Dusty Quinn (Back in Motion Ltd.)
  • Dr Cathy Chapple (University of Otago)
  • Dr Steve Tumilty (University of Otago)

MRI study: Concussion and whiplash

Comparing the neck features of people with concussion and whiplash using advanced imaging techniques.

Currently recruiting for Concussion and whiplash study

Research team:
Local collaborators

  • Dr Ewan Kennedy (University of Otago)
  • Dr Steve Tumilty (University of Otago)
  • Dr Cathy Chapple (University of Otago)
  • Dr Grant Meikle (Pacific Radiology Group)

National and international collaborators

  • Dr Jon Cornwall (Victoria University – Wellington, New Zealand)
  • Dr Scott Farrell (Griffith University – Queensland, Australia)
  • Dr James Elliott (Northwestern University – Chicago, USA)

Research funding

This research is generously supported by a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Orthopaedic Manual Therapy, funded by the Alumni of the University of Otago in America, Inc.