A heads-up for athletes as Parachute and Public Health Agency of Canada shine a spotlight on concussion management
Written by Sarah Watters
Hockey season is warming up and soccer season is cooling down — but as a parent, athlete, or coach, every season brings the possibility of injury. In recent years, the media has drawn our attention towards concussions, and their potential short- and long-term consequences.
In the absence of enough (or consistent) information, some parents have chosen to pull their children off of courts and fields, recognizing the potential risk of head injuries, including concussions. Until now, when someone is thought to have experienced a concussion while playing a sport there was no commonly adopted protocol telling us what we should do. This is beginning to change.
Concussion Protocol Harmonization Project
Parachute, a national charity that focuses on injury prevention, has spearheaded efforts to create harmonized concussion protocols for national sport organizations (NSOs) across Canada. With funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and based on the updated international expert consensus statement from the 5th International Conference on Concussion in Sport held in Berlin in October 2016, Parachute released the first ever Canadian Guideline on Concussion in Sport in July 2017. The Canadian Guideline on Concussion in Sport is a key component in the Parachute-led Concussion Protocol Harmonization Project.
Led by an Expert Advisory Committee, the Canadian guideline incorporates the principles of the Berlin Consensus Statement, applying them specifically to the Canadian context. Every three years, the Berlin conference gathered sports professionals and experts from the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), dementia, imaging and biomarker worlds, in order to take an expert consensus-based approach towards integrating the latest research with previous Concussion in Sport Group Statements (McCrory et al., 2017). Notably, Canada is positioned at the forefront of concussion-related research. Dr. Charles Tator, a concussion expert and neurosurgeon based out of Toronto Western Hospital, and Dr, Kathryn Schnieder a concussion expert from the University of Calgary, attended the Berlin discussions and are co-authors of the international consensus report. Both Dr. Tator and Dr, Schnieder are members of the Expert Advisory Committee that developed the Canadian national guidelines.
Based on these discussions, both the updated international statement and Canadian guideline state that a prolonged period of rest after injury is not necessary, but rather patients should undergo an initial 24–48 hour period of mental and physical rest before slowly resuming usual activities. While the recommendation on what to do in the hours and days following a concussion may have changed, importantly, the document still maintains that athletes suspected to have suffered a concussion should cease activity immediately and seek medical care.
The announcement of the Canadian guideline followed a Concussion Protocol Harmonization Event held in Ottawa in May where Parachute and the Canadian NSOs gathered to discuss protocol development. Parachute worked closely with the NSOs to better understand the most effective strategies for concussion prevention, identification, and management.
A national effort with community roots
Cossette Health had the opportunity to attend these insightful discussions, listening to potential pain points in establishing a nationwide protocol, and conceptualizing how all stakeholders might be brought together to discuss the, sometimes contentious topic of concussion in sport.
Challenge: How can we promote a nationwide discussion on concussion management protocols and bring about change without the pressure of imposing a top-down implementation of guidelines?
Cossette Health created a platform providing national sport organizations with a safe space to discuss current practices and share ideas both within organizations and between organizations located across the country.
The platform enables users to share and update their organization’s current concussion protocol so that the latest standards are being met. In the absence of a protocol, users are provided guidance as to how one can be created for their organizations. In this way, organizations can work together, encouraging and learning from one another as they implement evidence-based concussion management protocols.
“I encourage all Canadians to incorporate more physical activity into their daily lives. However, I also want to encourage safe practices to prevent possible injuries. The Canadian Guideline on Concussion in Sport not only raises concussion awareness, but also provides parents, coaches, athletes and healthcare professionals with an evidence-based approach to preventing, identifying, managing and treating concussions.”
- The Honourable Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P., (Former) Minister of Health
Evidence informed, streamlined decision-making
The platform created by Cossette Health, and the invaluable work done by Parachute and its partners, highlight a dedicated community effort to streamline concussion management so that informed decisions can be made both in deciding whether to participate as well as in what action to take when potential injury arises. As concussion protocols become systematically adopted across the country, parents can begin to ask and be informed about the concussion protocol for their child’s sport. This way they can not only engage better in their own child’s health, but also be comfortable knowing that their child is being kept safe and active by the most up-to-date, leading international practice in the world.