The Canadian government and a few strategic partners have committed $7.5 million to concussion research. The money will support 19 projects focused on concussion prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
Health Minister Rona Ambrose acknowledges the struggle that brain injury causes many families. “Whether it’s a hockey concussion, a senior’s fall, or violence in the home, injuries take a huge emotional toll on families and communities,” says Ambrose.
Five projects will examine concussions in youth. A University of Calgary project will follow hockey players ages 11 to 17 over a five year period. Another U of C project hopes to improve treatment of post-concussion syndrome (PCS) in children.
“It really is amazing to us that we don’t know more about what’s going on in the pediatric brain,” says Dr. Nick Reed, a brain injury specialist in Toronto. Another researcher, Dr. Paul van Donkelaar from UBC, says concussion management in children remains “a great unknown.”
What is known today is that mild traumatic brain injuries are difficult to diagnose in children because researchers don’t yet understand how they affect a child’s cognitive and physical functions. It’s also believed that mild traumatic brain injuries are worse for kids because their brains are undergoing significant development. The financial boost to funding will help shed light on these issues.
The research coincides with a dramatic decline in minor league hockey enrollment. Hockey Canada says many parents are keeping their kids off the ice because of safety concerns.
And the concern is warranted. Children account for nearly 40% of emergency rooms visits for concussions in Ontario.