When we speak about concussions, we often think about athletes; football players, rugby players, hockey players. Contact sports, in particular, seem to come to mind. However, research suggests that concussions are far more common than most would imagine. What’s more is that new research suggests that rates of concussion for children and youth have increased dramatically over the past five years. These worrying statistics have led to a national debate over the nature of sports culture, and the kinds of activities that should and shouldn't be allowed.
In 2016-2017, over 17,000 sports-related injuries were seen in Ontario and Alberta emergency departments alone. In fact, 26% of all brain injuries were due to sports. Over the last five years, emergency department visits in both provinces for head injuries have increased by roughly 28%. This statistic skyrockets for children under the age of 10, whose visits have increased by 50% in the same time. One of the top activities associated with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) was hockey, followed closely by cycling, football/rugby, and skiing/snowboarding. Of these, 94% were concussion related. Not surprisingly, contact sports were the most common recreation-related activities with reported concussions, for both sexes and in all age groups.
Accidental injuries are a leading cause of death, hospitalization, and disability among Canadians, and of these concussions are among the most common. The best way to help ensure that sports environments are kept safe is by increasing public awareness about concussions.
According to the government of Canada, 50% of Canadians have little or no knowledge about concussions, and 25% do not know how concussions are treated. When asked, only 15% can correctly identify the best treatment.
Health professionals, coaches, athletes, parents, and educators must have a comprehensive understanding of the risks involved with TBI, how to prevent them, and best practices to treat them.
Enter Parachute, a national charity “founded in 2012, promotes researched, evidence-based and expert-advised resources and tools that can help to prevent serious harm or death from preventable injuries.” Since they began, Parachute has worked tirelessly to provide evidence-based information and tools that are accessible to everyone. These include the Canadian Guideline on Concussion in Sport, Return to School Strategy, Return to Sport Strategy, the Canadian Harmonized Concussion Protocols, a SchoolFirst resource for teachers and school boards to support children and youth after experiencing a concussion, and their Mobile App to guide parents in the management of their child’s concussion.
For more information on how to treat concussions, what to watch for, and the risks involved, please visit Parachute and Canada.ca, or speak to a sports medicine doctor in your area.