Canadian Olympian Kevin Hill on concussions in snowboarding

With the 2018 Winter Olympic Games fast approaching, athletes and audiences alike are gearing up for 2 weeks of action, competition, and national pride. South Korea and the city of PyeongChang is preparing to welcome the world. Athletes are gearing up, and there is plenty of snow in the forecast. It is a time for excitement, pride, culture, and competition. The 2018 Games also boast the greatest number of women's and men's mixed events in Olympic history.

One of these events is snowboard cross. As CBC sports research has found that 1 in 3 of Canada's Olympic hopefuls has suffered a concussion so continued discussion and investigation into athlete safety is especially relevant. HeadCheck Health had the opportunity to catch up with 2014 Olympian Kevin Hill. A native of Vernon, British Columbia, Kevin is projected to join Team Canada in PyeongChang this upcoming February.

 

 

Do you always wear a helmet? Was there ever pressure not to?

I started snowboarding when I was 9 back in 1995. At that time there wasn’t really snowboard or ski helmets yet in existence.

From what I can remember, Burton RED started making the first helmet I ever wore around 1997. I have been wearing one ever since. Throughout my career, there have been times where it has not always been "cool" to do so. I have always stuck with it, it is the right choice for my brain.

Have you ever had a concussion? 

I suffered my first and only concussion while snowboarding when I was 18. I was doing a 720 spin over a 50 ft table jump when I under-rotated my spin by 90 degrees. I landed backward and to the right and caught my heel edge. It sent me flying and I hit the back of my head on the ground. My helmet split open on impact. Oddly, I recall everything quite clearly until I was knocked out. I slide unconscious down the landing of the jump, about 30 feet. I recall being able to hear but not see or move. When I was able to move again I sat up and immediately felt dizzy. However, I was able to remember what had happened.

What is the procedure for rehab and recovery? 

It is difficult for me to answer this one as it was quite a while ago. I was not currently sponsored or part of a team. I didn't have anyone to tell me how long I needed to rest for or how I should rehabilitate. I remember I stopped snowboarding for at least a month; the only person I had was the doctor at the hospital telling me to take a few weeks off. I took an ambulance down from the mountain to the hospital and got very car sick in the process.

How do you feel about concussion safety in your sport?

I think they do their best for concussion safety in my sport. Each team has their own protocol that they follow. It is also difficult because the culture of my sport still places the focus of decision-making (about recovery) with the athlete. I have seen some kids have full knockouts for over 30 seconds and then I’ve seen the same kid racing a few weeks later. I’ve also seen guys have multiple concussions and been told they should retire and they have come back and raced within a very short time. Ultimately, regardless of the caliber of medical treatment or protocols available to you within your team, riders often make the final decision on when/if they go back and most just want to race.

I think by adding six riders to my sport instead of four it has increased the crash rate. This also increases the chances of head injury.

How do you feel about your own knowledge and understanding of concussion science?

I think the Canadian National Team has done a very good job of keeping everyone aware of concussion safety and science.

 

What is the culture around concussions among snowboarders? Do they try to hide them?

Like most athletes, I think that snowboarders are naturally inclined to downplay or hide the severity of a concussion or related symptoms. Personally, I have had some pretty bad luck by being taken out by other riders in the past few years, which has caused me to crash and hit my head. I feel I’ve been very lucky to not have any concussion symptoms from those crashes. Now I make sure to always monitor myself honestly after these events.

Do safety standards vary between competitions?

Safety standards are always the same at competitions as far as rules and regulations go. However, the problem usually occurs when a course isn’t properly built or tested for six riders. This causes lots of crashing during testing or training.

How would you like to see concussion safety improve in snowboarding?

This is difficult to answer as I believe that, in snowboarding, race directors and builders are always looking for riders to go bigger and faster. They build courses with the intention of making the competition exciting for the audience and TV viewers. As I mentioned, my sport was changed from 4 to 6 riders. This allows more athletes to qualify for finals and fewer people sitting on the sidelines. Although it is advertised as "safe", it has caused a sharp increase in crashes and injuries. This can cost athletes their careers, cognitive abilities, and even their lives for the sake of entertainment. I believe that this adjustment has negated the advancement of concussion and safety in my sport.


Concussions: A Chiropractor's Perspective

A multifaceted and multidisciplinary approach to concussion science and rehabilitation is essential to the progression of brain safety and athletic performance.

 

Mark Malowney is a Chiropractor and Certified Strength & Conditioning specialist in the BC Lower Mainland. Additionally, Dr. Malowney holds a Sport First Responder licensure and is the Head Trainer for the Langley Rams Football Club. Born and raised in South Surrey, Mark completed his undergraduate degree in Kinesiology at the University of Victoria. Upon graduation, he pursued a 4-year doctorate from the Canadian Chiropractic College in Toronto.

 

A lover of all sports, Mark showed an athletically-inclined aptitude at a young age. Participating in hockey, baseball, football, golf, tennis, soccer, and basketball throughout his life, he quickly found his calling. Although basketball was his favorite, he suffered his first (and most severe) concussion while playing hockey. As he grew professionally, Mark wanted to "understand more about movement and injuries, and thought Chiropractic would be a good fit."

 

HeadCheck caught up with him this week to find out more:

 

 

 

As a Chiropractor, how did you become involved with concussion science?

 

As a long-time athlete, I have a well-established curiosity when it comes to brain health and wellness. My interest and involvement in concussion science officially and professionally began, however, when I started working with the Langley Rams football team. As someone who had suffered concussions before, and not really understanding their management, I felt I needed to learn more about how to safely return players to competition, and most importantly: life.

 

My last concussion was in 2011 and after undergoing months of recovery, I could not discern why my school marks were so poor, and why I could not perform in the gym or compete in basketball at the same level as I had before. To simplify what I have learned and to embody the complete mindset of my approach: sports do not have a concussion problem, it/they have a concussion management problem!

 

What would you like to see in the field of brain injury and athletic performance?

 

I would like to see the "guess work" taken out of return-to-play. We know so much more now about concussions (thanks to Sidney Crosby and other world-class and world-famous athletes speaking out) and are constantly learning more (i.e: Berlin Concussion Summit). I want people to understand that, like any injury, if a concussion is managed appropriately it significantly minimizes and even negates the chance that the effects become long-lasting.

 

Initially, I looked at using cheaper and easier assessments to administer for concussion testing, but I soon realized that you could pass those tests and not be fully recovered from a concussion. I would like to see the stigmatization of concussions end completely, and for the sports community as a whole (athletes, parents, coaches, exercise scientists) to feel equally educated, capable, and prepared to recover from a brain injury and an ankle sprain.

 

How does the role of a chiropractor differ from other sports medicine positions in regards to concussions? 

 

I would say I'm a bit of a "zebra" when it comes to chiropractic. Most chiros prefer to stay in their office.  I have a keen interest in sports, sports injuries, and the management of injuries (including rehab). Without sounding arrogant, I believe that I have almost as much concussion insight as most sports medicine doctors. I am constantly questioning, investigating, and looking to deepen my understanding and knowledge base. I love what I do and I think that, as professionals, we are just starting to break into the wide world of brain science. There is so much yet to discover about our own minds.

 

In terms of concussion, I have learned that it is extremely practitioner-dependent. I do not believe that there is a specific role for athletic therapists vs. chiropractors vs. sports medicine doctors vs. physiotherapists, etc. All of us play a central role in this subject, and it takes an interdisciplinary approach in order to be successful. Knowledge is directly related to what a person knows or has learned/pursued in courses they take outside of school. At least when and where I studied, concussion is still holding a passing commentary in lecture. It could be a course unto itself! I hope that as research continues to proliferate, so too will the formal education process for all healthcare professionals.

 

How is it similar? 

 

My role as a chiro/sports med doc would be similar in the sense that I am trying to provide minor and junior level programs with "professional" level service. Most junior and minor sports only have someone who is certified in First Aid on the sidelines. Many of those people have not had any formal training in sports injuries or in concussion assessment and management. This is where I am able to offer some mentorship for university students - particularly those that need volunteer hours with sports teams - and train them to be out in the field. In theory, they essentially become my eyes and ears as I cannot be in several places at once. In this way, my job creates a culture of safety and propagates the importance of having a professional at every athletic competition, irrespective of competitor age and skill level. In addition to removing critical injury or intervention decisions from parents or the coaching staff, my role also reduces a sporting association/organizations liability both in an immediate and in a long-term capacity.

 

https://twitter.com/LangleyRams/status/885298612149813248

 

What types of teams and athletes do you work with primarily?

 

Right now, it is mostly football. However, I have also worked with lacrosse and my company is also on the verge of breaking in with some hockey and soccer teams. Now that we have permanently set-up a home base at Rebound, I am very excited about what the future holds! 

 

What is your favorite part about your job?

 

I enjoy helping people. A big part of my job is education (and sometimes encouragement) in letting people know that they are healthy enough to get back to activity. I have patients who worry about returning to play after injury (psychological) and are given poor or less-informed information by other healthcare practitioners. Some have even been told that they may never get better! I love seeing the look on their faces when I am able to return them safely to their sport (or daily activities). Although it is challenging and constantly evolving, this career is extremely rewarding; I absolutely love my job.

 


AT Stories: Joey Garland - Windsor Spitfires

Joey Garland is completing his eleventh season as Athletic Therapist of the 2017 Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires. The Memorial Cup is awarded annually to the champions of the Canadian Hockey League.

 

A native of Newfoundland, Joey became interested in Athletic Therapy at a young age. In recent years he has also found success at the international level, winning Gold with Team Canada at the World U-18 Championships in Russia and representing his country again in 2014 at the U-20 Championships.

 

Garland graduated with a B.Sc. (Kinesiology) from Dalhousie University in 2002 and also obtained his Sports Injury Management Diploma from Sheridan College in 2005. In the midst of the whirlwind of Windsor hosting the Memorial Cup tournament, Joey took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with us about his passion.

 

 

You have had some success on a global scale with Team Canada and are now entering your 11th season with the Spitfires, why did you choose Athletic Therapy? 

 

Joey: I guess I chose athletic therapy because I have loved sports from a young age. I was never really good at anything but I knew the culture was something that I wanted to stay involved in. I have also always enjoyed watching athletes perform on TV and hated when players got hurt. Even my mom recalls stories from before I can remember of me as a kid watching first responders run out to assist an injured athlete during a televised game, and I always said, “I wanna do that.” So uhh (laughs) I think it was just in me to do.

 

What is your favourite part about your job?

 

Joey: My favourite part of my job is just seeing the boys perform. At this level and when they advance. Our league is very much developmental. Namely, it is trying to produce elite athletes, professional hockey players, but even more than that just good people. I keep track as they move to other endeavours and from time to time I get an email from a former player looking to get into Athletic Therapy, Kinesiology, or strength and conditioning. They appreciated what I did for them, and are now also looking to move into the same role as professionals. It is a special feeling.

 

What are the top 3 most common injuries you handle on a day-to-day basis?

 

Joey: AC sprains, MCL sprains, and concussions

 

In your position with the Spitfires, how do you handle player concussions?

 

Joey: We have a league protocol. Additionally, the OHL has a neuropsych consultant that our team works with. We get a baseline done for each of the boys at the beginning of the season via impact testing. Starting next year we will also be using HeadCheck to help with data collection, storing, and sharing of protocols. Once an incident occurs athletes are re-tested and that along with their symptoms will be examined to determine whether they are cleared or initiate a return-to-play protocol.

 

 

How do you treat concussions on a personal level? Undoubtedly, it is a daunting injury for a young player. How do you provide both physiological and psychosocial support for your athletes?

 

Joey: In this regard there has actually been a bit of a swing since I joined the profession over a decade ago. Concussions have become slightly easier to treat due to players, parents, agents, and coaches being more informed about the realities of the injury. Particularly with the publicity surrounding players like Sidney Crosby, concussions have been given much more emphasis and legitimacy at the highest level. There is a greater understanding of the long-term ramifications that head injuries can have on one’s career and even quality of life as a human being. That being said, telling a kid that they are going to miss any length of time is really difficult. Nobody wants to sit out.

 

If you could hold your own workshop, what is your thing? What fuels your fire/what are you the BEST at?

 

Joey: I would say incorporating strength and conditioning with athletic therapy to minimize injury, and reduce the time missed. I am passionate about integrating strength and conditioning with the therapy aspect of training. I love the blend of “prehab” exercises with rehabilitation and still staying active with the team even if it is in a limited capacity. But when speaking of the strength and conditioning aspect of my job there is a lot of psychology that comes into play. Not every player reacts the same way to the same exercises or rehab protocols so it is important to consistently adapt to the individual. It can be challenging because players get advice from different people or have heard the “key to success” or the best way to make it to the NHL from agents, parents, and other athletes. What I want most is to get each of them performing at their full potential while explaining that there are many ways to find success in hockey. Buying into the system part of it is crucial, and is often the difference maker between good teams and champions.

 

What's the most challenging part of your job?

 

Joey: Well (laughs) probably pretty much the same thing. It is dealing with all of the outside sources and getting a player to buy in to what we’re doing and why what we are doing is going to be best for them. The information they are getting from other sources may not be wrong, but it is just not how we do it here.

 

 

Unfortunately, you guys were eliminated in the first round of playoffs, how did you help ensure that Windsor would be ready to host the Memorial Cup tournament?

 

Joey: The coaches and I sat down, looked at our calendar, and realized that we had 44 days to peak. We could have viewed this period as a long lay off where we could get rusty and slow, but instead we chose to see it as an advantage. We had a unique opportunity to get healthy and into excellent shape. In coordination with the RMT, I also brought in a yoga instructor and consulted with a few other strength coaches. We created a 6-week program to peak for May 19th. The guys bought in. All the credit goes to the players. They could have sat on their thumbs and waited or only given a half effort at the gym but they never once wavered. I think it showed with our results.

 

How do you communicate and coordinate with ATs and rehabilitation staff from other teams?

 

Joey: There was a generalized medical meeting at the beginning of the tournament. Basically an explanation of the protocols, relevant contacts, and resources teams can access while they are here. More personally, we all talk and communicate professionally. The relationships between support staff are very open and casual. We have our league meetings and that is really where we share. This is where we help each other to get better individually and as a group.

 

What is your favourite part about the hockey community?

 

Joey: My favourite part of the hockey community is…how do I explain this…it is a small world. I’ll be in a random airport and I will run into someone that played here 6 years ago. For example, one year at the World Junior tournament I was in Malmo, Sweden and I got a random knock on my hotel room door. It was a former Spitfires player that happened to be playing professionally there. It is a very interconnected community and you would be hard pressed to find more than two degrees of separation no matter where you go. I think it is pretty neat. I grew up and lived in Newfoundland for most of my life and we are pretty isolated (laughs). Elite trainers, NHL players, the best hockey brains in the world; I always looked up to them as a kid and now to be integrated into the same circles is such an exciting privilege for me.

 

What would you most like to see progress in hockey safety?

 

Joey: Well, this answer is something that I have become extremely focused on in the last couple of years. I will be finishing my masters this summer and much of my research has focused on early specialization in youth sports. Kids are playing hockey and only hockey at a very young age at the expense of trying other sports or activities. In my scope, this is where overuse injuries really come into play. Surgeries, sports hernias, labral tears, or conditions like FAI developing in 16 or 17 year-olds. In reality, these types of conditions or injuries should never occur so young. They are more commonly seen in the 25-30 year old athlete age range, if ever. Additionally, these kids do not have the same athleticism coming in and I find are more prone to even minor ailments. One of my goals in my job here and as an athlete therapist overall is to get the message out there to young talent to broaden their base. I think that all children under 12 should seek balance and compete in a variety of sports.

 


 

 

After being eliminated in the first round of the 2017 OHL playoffs, Windsor completed an intense 6-week training program led by Garland in order to prepare for the Memorial Cup tournament. The Spitfires opened strong, and swept the competition in round robin play - finishing with a 3-0 record. This was enough to clinch a spot in the final. Windsor faced the Erie Otters in a fast-paced and physical game, emerging as the 2017 Memorial Cup Champions with a 4-3 victory.

 

Joey Garland is yet another example of the integral role rehabilitation science plays in athletic success, individually and on a team level. Joey facilitates the harmony of strength training, sport psychology, and athletic therapy. This approach has helped him to excel in his field. Garland's message of balance incorporates encouraging young athletes to try lots of different types of activity, nutritional and physical education, and ensuring continuous psychological and performance-oriented support. Although he loves to win and see each of his players perform, Joey also aims to nurture healthy, intelligent, and hard-working human beings, prepared for all of life's future endeavours.

(Photo Credits: www.windsorspitfires.com)


Sarah Allison

BHK – Clinical Exercise Physiology

BSN-PB Student – Nursing (RN)


Concussion Stories: Hunter Mills - SAIT Trojans Hockey

Return to play protocols and the physiology of concussion are a veritable "hot topic" in modern athletics today. This is particularly true of elite, contact sports. Indeed, a majority of the clients and healthcare professionals involved with HeadCheck Health are linked to hockey, football, rugby, or lacrosse.

 

Less rarely and intricately examined, however, are the lifestyle implications a brain injury can have on a student-athlete. In addition to attending lectures, taking exams, and completing assignments at the same pace and barometer of excellence as their fellow students, athletes attend daily weight training sessions, practices, and frequently travel to other cities or provinces for competitions and games. In recent studies, the NCAA has released that the estimated dedication to athletic excellence costs a player an average of 37-52 hours per week. This value does not include schoolwork and (almost exclusively) negates the prospect of being able to sustain additional part-time, paid employment.

 

Concussion and the prolonged effects of post-concussion syndrome can be extremely challenging and almost always affect life off the court, the field, or outside of the rink. As we know, some of the hallmark symptoms of concussion (and recovery) are: headaches, dizziness, fatigue, irritability, mood changes, anxiety, insomnia, loss of concentration and memory, and noise and light sensitivity. With concussion, seemingly normal tasks like maintaining a sleep schedule and attempting to stay within academic expectations of critical thinking and learning becomes challenging. On top of that comes daily check-ins with team medical professionals.

 

This week's interview features an ACAC college hockey player all too familiar with this process. Hunter Mills is a Business Administration student at SAIT and an active member of the men’s hockey team. In his second year with the Trojans, he was sidelined several times due to recurrent concussions and recovery complications. Along with learning the misconceptions surrounding head injury, Hunter has also come to understand the tribulations associated with having to constantly articulate how he is feeling or explain why it is a 'good' day or a 'bad' day.

 

His testimonial is a tribute to the complexity of such an injury.

 

Hunter Mills SAIT Trojans Hockey
Hunter Mills #28 | courtesy of SAIT Trojans Athletics

 

How many concussions have you had?

 

Hunter: Not really sure, the safe guess would have to be approximately 5 or 6.

 

What is the most surprising or disconcerting symptom you have experienced?

 

Hunter: I think getting back to the bench after taking a hard hit and the feeling of it; it is hard to describe. It is almost like you're in a 3rd person perspective or in a dream. I've gone out on the ice again after having this happen and sort of just floated around not really knowing what I should be doing or what is going on in the game. Probably my biggest fear is forgetting something during the day and having the thought that it could be correlated somehow to the injuries I've had. I think most of the time I'm just overthinking it, but that is exactly what worries me about concussions, losing my memory or not being able to be "myself”. That is what scares me the most.

 

The protocols, including baseline testing, ongoing assessment, and the checklist for returning to play can be frustrating for many competitive athletes. Naturally, you are eager to return as quickly as possible. What have your learned most in having to go through this process? Is there anything you wish other athletes or your teammates knew about head injuries?

 

Hunter: One of the most frustrating or annoying things about having a concussion is having to tell about 5 people everyday how you feel and why. You're expected to grade yourself on over 20 potential symptoms and feelings you may have on a scale of 0-6. It is difficult because no chart or scale is able to tell you if you're okay or not. I know if the day is a good day or bad day and I'd rather not have to fill out some checklist to prove this. I've filled out hundreds of these SCATs and I understand their purpose but sometimes the process can be draining. Recently, I started seeing a concussion specialist and I found having less people dealing with the whole process improved my day to day and made me feel a lot better about everything. I really appreciate all the medical staff's assistance and support during the process. It has been hard having to be so honest about how I am feeling.

Hunter Mills SAIT Trojans Hockey
Hunter Mills #28 | courtesy of SAIT Trojans Athletics

 

 

Throughout their development, athletes have access to lots of new equipment and types of therapy. What do you think has been most helpful to your recovery?

 

Hunter: I think the biggest contributing factor to helping me with my recovery is the knowledge that everyone now has regarding concussions and head injuries. My coaches and teammates, especially the captain of my team Dean Allison and assistant coach Brett Bartman really helped myself to make the right decisions regarding my injuries. The leadership, compassion and maturity they have provided have been invaluable to my progress and ability to cope with everything. Throughout my junior career, I was pressured not to miss games and my coach often said that “it is all in my head” and a concussion is not a real injury. My experience at SAIT has been the complete opposite. I am encouraged to make the correct decisions to get healthy because people care about each other and a future after hockey. I want to thank Dan Olsen my head coach, the rest of the staff at SAIT, and my teammates because although the new equipment and therapies streamline and articulate the recovery process – the biggest difference for me has been the people around me.

 

Hunter Mills SAIT Trojans Hockey
the support of friends and family is enormous for every athlete | photo courtesy of Sarah Allison

 

Looking ahead, is there anything you'd love to see in the field of concussion science from an athlete's perspective? How has brain injury affected your lifestyle, hockey career, and thoughts about the future?

 

Hunter: Although it can be tedious, finding out exactly what each individual athlete requires for brain recovery is huge. In addition to the protocols and questions, providing a supportive and educational atmosphere is incredibly beneficial. My teammates and family played a huge role for me. Undoubtedly, there are ways to further blend science with the more intangible and relational sides of healing. Having a concussion is unlike any other injury in sports. If it were anything other than my brain - I would have been out there grinding through it with the boys.  It is not easy to constantly dissect your state of mind and this shift in my thinking has been the biggest adjustment for my life and future.

 


 

Sarah Allison

BHK – Clinical Exercise Physiology

BSN-PB Student – Nursing (RN)


AT Stories: Kate Trippier, Head Athletic Therapist - SAIT Trojans

Athletic Therapy is a unique discipline that encompasses both clinical and field practice. It is one of the few rehabilitation professions wherein one is required to manage an athletic injury at both ends of the continuum: from initial trauma to return to play. ATs work cohesively and collaboratively with other healthcare professionals and must fulfill a broad spectrum of competencies on any given day. Athletic therapists are elite caregivers that provide on-site treatment in the management of sport-related injuries. In many cases, the profession requires one to adopt emergency care protocols for injured athletes using adaptations of existing medical and paramedical standards.

 

The Competencies in Athletic Therapy are divided into five domains:

  1. Prevention
  2. Assessment
  3. Intervention
  4. Practice Management
  5. Professional Responsibility

An Athletic Therapist is an extraordinarily valuable friend and colleague to have in any stage of life and athletics. Today we will gain insight on what makes the profession so special.

(Photos courtesy of saittrojans.com)

Kate Trippier Interview

March is National Athletic Trainers Month so it is only fitting to begin with an extremely knowledgeable and insightful individual. Kate Trippier is the Head Athletic Therapist at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary. She completed her Kinesiology degree and AT certification through the partner program at the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University. After graduation, Kate worked in a private clinic until she was hired to work with the Trojans in 2016.

 

Why did you decide to become an Athletic Therapist?

 

Kate: I was born and raised in a small town in northwestern Ontario without any qualified rehabilitation professionals. I played a handful of sports growing up, primarily hockey, and at one point I fractured a vertebrae in my neck. Getting access to care and a proper plan for recovery was really challenging. It was a lengthy and often frustrating process but the experience allowed me to do a lot of research. It sparked a passion to learn about the human body and musculoskeletal world in a hands-on way.

 

What is your favourite part about working with young, elite athletes; the most challenging aspect?

 

Kate: I love how entertaining they are. Every day at work I have a great time and it is hard to go even an hour without sharing some chuckles. Athletes are highly motivated and hard working people, but they are also intelligent and hilarious.

 

The most challenging part of my job is trying to foster the understanding that there is life after the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC). Many athletes struggle to understand or are frustrated by why they are being held out of games or practices when they feel they could play. As you grow older, you come to understand just how much of life there is to see, and how many important and exciting experiences are waiting beyond college athletics. It is my job to keep them healthy for life, not just the season.

 

What do you currently do when you suspect an athlete could have sustained a concussion?

 

Kate: SAIT is really fortunate to have access to practicum students who are assigned to each of our varsity teams. If an injury or suspected concussion occurs during training or competition, they are immediately assessed by whoever is on site. If the athlete reveals signs or symptoms of a concussion they are immediately removed from play. The next business day the athlete will check in with our clinic and myself for a comprehensive exam. We do a full SCAT 3 and compare their results to the baseline testing conducted on all athletes prior to the beginning of each season. Depending on the results, we follow protocols from here.

 

The athlete will continue to check in daily until asymptomatic, at this point we can proceed with the return to learn protocol. If every step of this is successfully completed, we move on to the return to play protocol. This process has become quite universal and much more streamlined in recent years. By scraping the old school grading system and implementing a specific 5-stage protocol, it allows us to be more consistent and thorough across the board.

 

 At SAIT, there are numerous varsity teams and over a hundred athletes representing the Trojans. What resources do you feel best equip you to do your job? 

 

Kate: In addition to what we have already mentioned with our practicum students and certain protocols, having access to the sports medicine clinic in Calgary is invaluable. We are able to get our athletes in with Sports Medicine as soon as next day if urgent. We are fortunate to have the option to get athletes in with Dr. Brian Benson at Winsport. He is one of the leaders in concussion research. He is able to have athletes complete further testing, such as robotics, to aid in the safe return to play of anyone referred.

 

Looking to the future, how would you like to see the field of concussion science develop?

 

Kate: I am glad you asked this. The technology is progressing at a fairly rapid pace which is great to see, however there is still a long way to go. It would be great if we could get onsite testing that is more in depth that what we currently have available through the basic SCAT3. There are some technologies available at this time, but athletes can still ‘’throw the testing’’ at baseline or become accustomed to the assessment allowing them to appear to be better than they are. It’s definitely a lot to ask to have something available at our finger tips that is in depth, accurate, and without loop holes and that’s likely why it isn’t available yet.

 

Hopefully, as technology continues to advance it won’t be long before this is available for all Athletic Therapists’ to utilize. From a return to play perspective, I would love to see a more psychological aspect be added to the current model. It is known that there are psychological effects associated with concussions from frustration due to inability to participate to feeling isolated from the team. Although athletes are always advised of options on where to seek help for this aspect of health it is often not sought out.

 

"Your neck is your head's safety belt. Keep your neck muscles strong to help reduce risk for concussion." - Kate Trippier

 


 

Athletes in every field are bigger, faster and stronger. There have been advances to equipment in several sports, and training, nutrition and preparation have never been better. Once lagging behind, the scientific and medical knowledge of brain trauma is now determined to keep pace. From elite athletes to the general public, our community is growing and there have been steady increases in curiosity and understanding of concussion science. At HeadCheck, we support professionals to provide concussion testing and management for their athletes.

 


Sarah Allison

BHK - Clinical Exercise Physiology

BSN-PB Student - Nursing (RN)