Until recently, 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 understand this is true.
Today we know that a concussion is a brain injury. With multiple concussions, an individual can have long term repercussions including a brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) that 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 or prevent CTE altogether.
The Canadian Sports Concussion Project 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 Neuroscience Centre 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 and psychiatry using the repetitive concussions that occur in sports to shed light into concussions that could affect all of us.
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) and Magnetoencephalography's (MEG) to help better understand the changes in the brain that may occur due to multiple concussions
Improving imaging diagnostic techniques to diagnose the full spectrum of concussions – from acute concussion to post concussion syndrome to CTE – and to find ways to grade the severity of these conditions
Researching new treatment approaches for people with post-concussion syndrome and 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
Encouraging professional athletes and their families to donate their brains upon their death, especially after participating in one of the clinical studies, so that post mortem examinations can be performed
Translating the findings to sports organizations and health care professional so the best care can be provided and all sports can be enjoyed safely. We want young people to keep playing collision sports, but we want these sports to be as safe as possible.