​​​​​​​​​As Canadian Concussion Projectrecently as 10 years ago, concussions were dismissed as minor medical events; whether a person fell at home or work, were in a car accident or were hurt playing sports. Times have changed. All you have to do is read the news headlines to know that concussions are now regarded as a major public health problem.

Today we know that a concussion is a brain injury. Sustaining multiple concussions can result in long term consequences for some individuals, including a brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) which resembles Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease and can lead to premature death. What is not known is how to diagnose the severity of a concussion, and how to provide effective treatment for, or prevent, CTE altogether.

The Canadian Concussion Centre is the world's first program dedicated to a four pronged approach to concussions – research, education, diagnosis and treatment. The project is based at the Krembil Brain Institute at the University Health Network's Toronto Western Hospital, and is led by internationally acclaimed concussion expert, Dr. Charles Tator. The team includes world leaders in brain injuries, imaging, genetics, clinical care, neuropsychology, and psychiatry working together to determine how concussions could affect us all.

The project has several important components:

  • A clinical research study involving former professional football and hockey players, and other professional athletes who undergo a neurological, neuropsychiatric and neuropsychological assessment as well as brain scans (MRIs), Magnetoencephalography's (MEG) and PET scans to help better understand the changes in the brain that may occur due to concussions
  • Improving diagnostic imaging techniques to diagnose the full spectrum of concussions – from acute concussion to post-concussion syndrome (PCS) to CTE – and to find ways to grade the severity of these conditions.
  • Researching new treatment approaches for people with PCS, especially those with multiple concussions in order to diminish cognitive and emotional symptoms, and minimize the neurological decline in CTE.
  • Searching for biomarkers including blood tests that may be used to diagnose a concussion as well as identifying any susceptibility to concussion within families through genetics.
  • Encouraging professional athletes or their families, on their behalf, to donate their brains to our research upon their death, especially after participating in one of the clinical studies, so that further study and understanding of concussions can be achieved through post mortem examinations.
  • Providing research findings and recommendations to sports organizations, employers and health care professionals so the best care can be provided during return to sports, school or work. With respect to sports we strive to ensure that all sports can be enjoyed by athletes of all ages and abilities with minimal risk of further concussions. We want young people to keep playing collision sports, but we want these sports to be as safe as possible. We also want school and work environments to be as safe as possible and return to school or work to occur on a graduated basis with any necessary accommodations being provided. Our Annual Concussion Symposium provides an excellent learning opportunity for health care professionals involved in concussion management.
  • Providing best practices to those who are returning to school or work so that normal lifestyle can be restored as quickly as possible after a concussion or during the management of PCS for those who do not recover fully within a month of sustaining a concussion.

The Canadian Concussion Centre also runs a 2-night Education and Support Workshop ('When Symptoms of Singer and Multiple Concussions Persist') at the Toronto Western Hospital for individuals recovering from concussion and their relatives and friends. Learn more about the schedule for these 2-night (4 hour) workshops, along with sign-up instructions. For those interested and unable to attend in person, one of our prior workshops is available via video broadcast.