Laurier Golden Hawks at Windsor Lancers in OUA women's hockey action at South Windsor Arena in Windsor, Ontario, on 24 September 2016. Photo by Ian Shalapata.

Studying Concussion In Youth Sports

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(WINDSOR, ON) – A partnership between the UWindsor Sport-Related Concussion Centre and the Sun Parlour Female Hockey Association has the potential to protect local athletes from injury while advancing research into recovery from pediatric concussion.

The two have teamed up to offer baseline testing for girls in the association’s travel programs, and follow up in the event of a suspected brain injury. About 100 girls, ranging in age from 11 to 16 years old, are eligible for the testing conducted on campus.

“There are several components to the baseline assessment,” said psychology professor Joe Casey. “The players provide us with some basic background information, such as their height, weight, age, gender, and the position of the sport they play, to name a few. They then complete a questionnaire that comprises a list of symptoms commonly associated with concussion. This tells us the extent to which they are experiencing these symptoms prior to injury, such as headaches, fatigue, and difficulty with concentration.”

This is followed by a computerized test that measures several cognitive abilities that are often disrupted by a concussion. The final portion of the assessment is a balance test. Players are asked to stand on a force plate that measures their natural sway.

If a player is suspected of a concussion, her parent contacts the concussion centre for a post-injury evaluation, which includes an interview focusing on the injury and a repeat of the assessment procedures completed at baseline.

The Sport-Related Concussion Centre was launched in 2013 to provide programmatic baseline assessments and post-injury follow-up to Lancer varsity athletes. It is a collaborative effort among Casey, his psychology department colleague Chris Abeare, both of whom are certified clinical neuropsychologists, kinesiology professor Nadia Azar, who brings expertise in objective balance testing, and graduate students who gain practicum experience in clinical neuropsychology.

From the beginning, the work with the Lancers has also included athletic therapist Dave Stoute.

“We don’t know nearly enough about the assessment, management, and long term outcome pediatric concussion,” said Casey. “This is going to give us the opportunity to study this on a large scale. This isn’t a matter of just offering a clinical service, but of promoting a research culture in the community.”

It was the initiative of Sun Parlour which jump-started this second program. The tie to research was part of the attraction for Chaderique Menard, the organization’s vice-president for travel programs.

“I told the parents that by participating they would be contributing to the overall good,” he said. “There’s a lack of research being done for the younger kids, and more research is the only way to correct the problem of concussions in sport.”

Menard said this trial run, involving six teams with 17 players each, may well expand next season to include his organization’s hundreds of house league players. He calls the program a huge benefit to the athletes, their parents, and volunteer officials.

“This takes the medical responsibility off the coaches and trainers and puts it in the hands of health professionals,” he said.