Nov. 8, 2018

Concussion care and research: The facts, the fiction, the future

UCalgary hosts research symposium and free public talk Nov. 15
Concussion: Facts, Fiction and the Future research symposium will be held at the University of Calgary on Nov. 15.

Concussion: Facts, Fiction and the Future research symposium will be held on Nov. 15.

Contrary to what many might believe, concussions are not limited to athletes and adults. They occur across the lifespan, with the highest risk borne by children and older adults, who are especially vulnerable to poor outcomes. Each year, concussion strikes at least 250,000 Canadians and more than 40 million people worldwide.   

Concussions are sometimes called an invisible injury: They aren’t obvious, like a broken bone or a cut, yet people with concussions suffer silently with headaches, fatigue, sleep and mood difficulties, poor memory, and dizziness.

Most adults will recover in the initial two weeks following a concussion and most children will recover in the initial four weeks. However, research shows that up to 30 per cent of people who have had a concussion may have ongoing symptoms that last much longer and can limit their ability to perform typical activities of daily living, school, and work, or to engage in recreation and sport activities. 

The University of Calgary is recognized around the world as a leader in concussion research, training the next generation of experts, and producing new and novel ways of thinking about concussion prevention, diagnosis and prognosis, and treatment and rehabilitation.

One-day symposium and free evening public panel on concussion research Nov. 15

On Nov. 15, the Integrated Concussion Research Program (ICRP) will be hosting a one-day symposium and free evening public panel discussion at the MacEwan Conference Centre, presenting the latest information about concussion research happening at UCalgary, and its influence around the world.

Below, some of the key symposium presenters, who are also faculty members at the University of Calgary, share their thoughts on why concussion should be at the forefront of Canadians’ minds, and the role that UCalgary is playing in leading the way.

  • Dr. Keith Yeates, PhD: Ronald and Irene Ward Chair in Paediatric Brain Injury, professor and head of the Department of Psychology, lead for the Integrated Concussion Research Program and adjunct professor in the departments of clinical neurosciences and paediatrics, and member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI) and Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM).

“Concussions among children and youth in Canada are common — too common," says Yeates. "Although a lot of kids recover in the first few weeks, some can go on to have ongoing problems that can affect their school performance, social interactions, and psychological well-being. A lot of my work is focused on identifying the factors that predict which children will have a delayed or prolonged recovery, so that we can target health-care resources to those children and hopefully prevent ongoing difficulties. Many people probably don’t know this, but UCalgary leads the world in research publications on paediatric concussion over the past five years.”

  • Dr. Bradley Goodyear, PhD: Associate professor, departments of radiology, clinical neurosciences, and psychiatry, and member of the HBI at the CSM.

“It may be a surprise for some to hear that brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is not routinely used to diagnose concussion or to assess recovery," says Goodyear. "That's because concussion doesn't typically cause something that can be easily seen using MRI. However, advanced MRI research scans can provide images of brain structure, function, blood flow and inflammation, all from a single one-hour session. With the breadth of collaborators here at the University of Calgary, we can ensure that we include all relevant information relevant to concussion, to ensure we make the greatest impact with brain imaging."

  • Dr. Kathryn Schneider, PhD: Assistant professor and clinician scientist at the Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre, Faculty of Kinesiology and member of ACHRI and the HBI at the CSM.

Schneider says, “The focus of my research program is on the assessment and rehabilitation of individuals who have suffered a concussion, with a special interest in the neck (cervical spine) and balance systems. We have found that rehabilitation strategies, including both cervical (neck) and vestibular rehabilitation (inner ear/balance), can help improve recovery for youth and adults who have ongoing dizziness, neck pain and/or headaches following concussion. What is unique about the team at the University of Calgary is that we have a collaborative research group who bring together different areas of research and clinical expertise, providing a comprehensive approach to our research, ultimately combining efforts to best understand how we can prevent, detect and manage this commonly occurring injury.”

  • Dr. Carolyn Emery, PhD: Chair of the Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre, ACH Foundation Professor in Paediatric Rehabilitation, professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and in the departments of paediatrics and community health science, and member of ACHRI, the HBI, the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health, and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health at the CSM.

“In youth, over 60 per cent of concussions occur in sport and recreation and 30 per cent are recurrent. One of the things that keeps me so invested in my work is that concussions in youth sport and recreation are predictable and preventable. Moving upstream towards prevention through implementation and evaluation of rule changes, equipment recommendations, and training strategies can have significant public health impact in reducing the burden of concussions in youth sport," says Emery. "The opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration in concussion research and knowledge translation at the University of Calgary are next to none. It is a privilege to be part of the UCalgary Integrated Concussion Research Program Team."

  • Dr. Chantel Debert, MD: Clinical associate professor in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences and Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and member of the HBI at the CSM.

“Although experts say that over 250,000 concussions occur in Canada each year, I suspect this may be a gross underestimate, as many may not know they have a concussion or they do not seek medical care," says Debert. "The University of Calgary is in an amazing position nationally and internationally as we have an organized approach to concussion care and research that spans the entire campus through the Integrated Concussion Research Program. What’s most unique about concussion research here at UCalgary? I think the fact that we provide clinical care and research opportunities to children and adults along the journey of concussion from acute care to those that suffer with chronic symptoms, unlike any other centre in Canada.”

Learn more or register for the one-day symposium, and the free public talk, both taking place on Nov. 15.

Interested in this topic? Learn more:

The Integrated Concussion Research Program (ICRP) is a university-wide initiative across the University of Calgary campus to study concussion. This effort has brought together experts from the Cumming School of MedicineFaculty of Kinesiology, and Faculty of Arts, with support from the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI) and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI). The ICRP was developed to address the growing concern about concussions, better the lives of those who have experienced these injuries, and prevent concussions for upcoming generations. Brain and Mental Health is one of six research strategies guiding the University of Calgary toward its Eyes High goals. Led by the HBI, the strategy provides a unifying direction for brain and mental health research at the university and positions researchers to unlock new discoveries and treatments for brain health in our community.