Concussions are a serious issue in sport. According to the National Football League, 13.5 per cent more concussions were reported among its players in 2017 over the year before, while Blue Cross Blue Shield found a 43 per cent increase in sports-related concussions between 2010 and 2015.
That's not a surprise to Dr. Charles Tator, Director of the Canadian Concussion Centre, an organization based out of the Krembil Brain Institute that conducts concussion-related research.
"There's still a lack of awareness and lack of recognition around concussions," he says. "We want to change that."
Dr. Tator has made it his mission to reduce the number of concussions in Canada. But unlike other doctors who mostly focus on science, he's taking a three-pronged approach to his work: research, education and policy change.
Since researchers are just starting to learn how concussions work, it could take time before any treatment is found. That's why he wants to change laws and raise awareness of what can happen when someone gets hit in the head.
So far, Dr. Tator and his team have made progress in all three areas.
In March, the Ontario government passed Rowan's Law, named after 17-year-old Rowan Stringer who died in 2013 after suffering two concussions within a week. Dr. Tator, among others, helped lobby the government to pass it. The law states that hockey coaches must oversee player safety, while organizations need to develop protocols for the removal and re-entry of a player into a game after a hit to the head has occurred. He hopes other provinces will adopt this, too.
"That's the plan," he says. "To have it spread across the country."
On the research side, the Canadian Concussion Centre recently made headlines after it received commitments from four female athletes – Olympic skier Kerrin Lee-Gartner, hockey legends Cassie Campbell-Pascall and Fran Rider, and rugby star Jen Kish – to receive their brains after they pass away. This is a coup, because, so far, the Centre has only received brains from male athletes.
The Krembil Brain Institute has teamed up with
The Globe and Mail on a special project showcasing the pioneering science, groundbreaking discoveries and world class innovation underway at Krembil. The Institute’s dedicated scientists and clinicians are devoted to finding treatments and cures for Stroke, Epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Pain and Concussion. Inside this issue, you’ll learn more about their incredible research and how it directly impacts patient care.
The magazine is now available online.