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Allison Haggart lived on the hill before suffering a life-changing concussion. Today, through the Allison Project, she's pushing for more research on diagnosis and treatment. (Photo: Courtesy of Allison Haggart)

Former snowboarder Allison Haggart, 18, surpassed her initial goal of raising $100,000 just a few months after launching the Allison Project in January, 2013. The funds will support the Canadian Sports Concussion Project led by Dr. Charles Tator, a neurosurgeon at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre of Toronto Western Hospital.

The Canadian Sports Concussion Project is the world's first project to address unknowns such as whether whether those who have had a concussion or multiple concussions, are at greater risk of developing Alzheimer's or other neurodegenerative diseases. Little is known about the long-term effects of concussions and specific treatments.

"I was ecstatic the day that we hit $100,000," said Haggart. "It was a big number, and I admit I did feel some pressure to succeed. I credit our success to our ability to get organized, reach out, and to be blessed with very generous donors. Concussions are so prevalent and it is such a widespread cause that touches everyone, but I was amazed to see how much people cared and truly wanted to help."

Improving detection, assessment

The $120,000 raised so far by Haggart will be matched by a government program to add two more clinician-researcher positions to the Concussion Project in the coming year.

The new clinician-researchers will participate in the evaluation and treatment of patients across the spectrum of this injury, including acute concussion, post concussive syndrome and brain degeneration. The research team would like to better understand the brain changes that occur with this injury, and identify successful interventions to alleviate the effects of concussion during different stages. Through this research, it's hoped that a concussion index can be established to better detect and assess the severity of head trauma, and determine the best course of treatment or rehabilitation.

Devastating crash

Last year, the promising career of Haggart, a former provincially-ranked snowboarder, boardercrosser and coach, came to an abrupt halt when she crashed on a ski hill north of Toronto. She was wearing a helmet and remained conscious.

Over the next few days, Haggart suffered from pounding headaches, dizziness, vomiting and disorientation. No one could explain to her what was happening inside her head, or offer her any treatments, other than time.

Doctors did, however, tell Haggart that she would likely never snowboard again. And because the risks outweighed the rewards for Haggart – she decided that it wasn't worth it to continue. ​

Haggart says that although concussions are strongly associated with sports, they can also be the result of a fall, a car accident, or any number of impact injuries.

"Many studies suggest concussions are under-diagnosed and therefore under treated. We should all work towards finding effective solutions to identify and manage this condition and support research in this developing field," she said.

Related:

TSN analyst Matt Dunigan, UHN expert, tackle concussions​​

Allison Haggart's website: The Allison Project

Make a difference: Donate

Find out more: Canadian Concussion Centre​


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