Last week, new Canada-wide guidelines for physicians, parents, coaches, trainers, teachers, and athletes to diagnose, manage and treat concussions were unveiled.
On hand at the press conference to help announce the guidelines was Steve Podborski, former 1980 Olympic downhill medallist, and President of Parachute Canada, a national charity which aims to reduce preventable injuries. Mr. Podborski clarified that the guidelines are not about limiting kids’ involvement in sports, but rather increasing the knowledge and assessment skills of everyone involved in kids’ athletics.
“Part of being a kid is being physical and maybe getting a broken bone,” Mr. Podborski said. “We are about not getting a spinal injury or a traumatic brain injury. We don’t want our hearts broken.”
His sentiments are not hyperbole. Injury is the number one cause of death in Canadians aged 1 to 44, and one child dies every nine minutes from injury. It’s a sobering and tragic statistic—and the public is gradually starting to realize the full danger of a concussion, thanks in part to a few high-profile incidents, injuries, and deaths—including the death of 17-year-old Rowan Stringer, who played through two concussions in one week and died four days later on May 12, 2013.
The guidelines are a result of a massive collaborative international effort to better understand concussions and their impact, especially on children. Input was gathered from 400 academics from 24 countries, and then a 15 member advisory committee, led by Parachute Canada and backed by Health Canada, created the concussion-focused guidelines from the group’s conclusions. The federal government announced on Friday that it had earmarked $1.4 million for public awareness.
- Define a concussion. Many believe a concussion is only the result of a blow to the head, but in actuality, a concussion can be the result of a blow to the head, face, neck, or anywhere on the body where force is transmitted to the head.
- Flag common misconceptions. For example, many believe unconsciousness and concussions go hand in hand, when in fact it’s common to get a concussion and never lose consciousness.
- Offers advice. The guidelines are intended to be a resource for coaches, parents, and doctors alike. It offers advice on how to manage a concussed child, for example, resting from cognitive exertion, which includes “going to school, using a computer, and playing video games.”
- Offers tips for prevention. Protective equipment is good, but vigilance and caution are better. “There is no such thing as a concussion-proof helmet,” the guidelines state in bold.
In total, the guidelines are broken down into seven areas: pre-season education, head injury recognition, on site medical assessment, medical assessment, concussion management, multidisciplinary concussion care and return to sport.
“These guidelines are important because they incorporate the most current evidence-based recommendations in the field…” said Michael Ellis, a Winnipeg doctor who co-chaired the advisory committee.
The guidelines will ensure consistency across sport in Canada, and every coach, whether they are coaching Timbits hockey or the NHL, will have the same information at their fingertips.
Before Friday, only Ontario actually had established guidelines to ensure children in sport were protected from concussions.
You can view the guidelines online at parachutecanada.org.