Faster recovery from concussion following immediate removal from play

Getting off the field is key to getting athletes back in the game

A recent study out of the University of Florida confirmed the importance of immediately removing athletes from play after they have suffered a sports-related concussion.

Shorter symptoms and quicker return to play

The study, which looked at more than 500 athletes across 18 different sports, showed that immediate removal from sport not only reduced the number of days that the athlete experienced symptoms but it also resulted in quicker return to play. According to the report, student-athletes immediately removed from activity experienced symptoms for two days less— and were able to return to play three days earlier— than their peers who experienced a delayed removal from activities.  The data also suggests that immediate removal may lessen the severity of acute symptoms.[i]

These findings echo previous research, adding weight to current management practices that require athletes suspected of having a concussion be immediately removed from play.[ii] For those working with adolescents, immediate removal from play may be even more important—one study showed that adolescents immediately removed from activity returned to play 22 days earlier than their peers who were not.[iii]

The right rest

Multiple studies show that immediate rest is key, but this study suggests that too much rest may not be the best approach. While there is a consensus that 24-48 hours of rest immediately after sustaining a concussion is crucial to a speedy recovery, prolonged rest may increase the risk of an extended recovery. [iv] Instead, properly timed physical activity could improve outcomes. [v] Researchers believe physical activity may encourage better outcomes by increasing the brain’s uptake of proteins associated with healing and neural repair and could speed up a return to homeostasis.[vi]

Catch it when you can

Despite the strong evidence that immediate removal is essential, as many as 50% of athletes are delayed in being removed from sport after sustaining a concussion.[vii] It’s unlikely that all of these delays are simply caused by a failure to report or non-compliance with concussion guidelines. In this study, a high proportion of those who were not immediately removed from sport were people who experienced delayed symptom onset— helping to explain why so many athletes continue to play after the impact responsible for the concussion.

Unfortunately, not every concussion is immediately detectable. Still, as soon as symptoms are noticed, it is time to get off the field immediately. Mounting data shows that removal from play at the time of symptom onset— even if that is after the impact that caused the concussion— gives the best chance of avoiding a prolonged recovery. [viii]

Further to go

There have been great strides in the recognition and reporting of sports-related industries over the last two decades, but there is still a long way to go. Too many athletes are still not immediately removed from play.

This study, like several before it, highlights the importance of educating athletes, coaches, and trainers on how to identify symptoms and the importance of immediate removal from play—it’s what is best for recovery, and the fastest way to get athletes back in the game.

 

 

References

[i] Asken, B. M., Bauer, R. M., Guskiewicz, K. M., McCrea, M. A., Schmidt, J. D., Giza, C. C., ... & Broglio, S. P. (2018). Immediate removal from activity after sport-related concussion is associated with shorter clinical recovery and less severe symptoms in collegiate student-athletes. The American journal of sports medicine46(6), 1465-1474.

[ii] Asken BM, McCrea MA, Clugston JR, Snyder AR, Houck ZM, Bauer RM. “Playing through it”: delayed reporting and removal from athletic activity after concussion predicts prolonged recovery.  J Athi Train. 20016; 51(4):329-335.

[iii] Elbin R. Sufrinko A, Schatz, et al. Removal from play after concussion and recovery time. Pediatrics. 2016; 183(3):e20160910

[iv]  McCrory P, Meeuwisse W, Dvorak J, et al. Consensus statement on concussion in sport—the 5th International Conference on Concussion in Sport held in Berlin, October 2016 [published online April 26, 2017]. Br J Sports Med. Doi: 10, 1136/bjsports-2017-097699

[v] Silverberg ND, Iverson GL. Is rest after concussion “the best medicine?” Recommendations for activity resumption following concussion in athletes, civilians, and military service members.  J Head Trauma Rehabil. 2013 28(4) 250-259

[vi] Griesbach GS, Hovda D, Molteni R, Wu A, Gomez-Pinilla F. Voluntary exercise following traumatic brain injury: brain-derived neurotrophic factor upregulation and recovery of function, Neuroscience. 2005; 125(1):129-139.

[vii] Asken (2016).

[viii] Asken (2018).


What Risk Managers Need to Know about Concussions

The following article was written by Robin Bowman. Robin is a certified athletic trainer and risk manager with nearly 20 years experience in recreational and varsity athletics.

Concussions are arguably the biggest hot-button issue in sports today. As more research comes out on the complex and sometimes long-lasting effects of even a single concussion, those involved with sports and recreation at all levels are left with some difficult questions. Should children be participating in contact and collision sports? If so, at what age is it appropriate to begin? What should athletes, parents, coaches, officials, and administrators know about concussions? Who is responsible for recognizing and responding to a suspected concussion? How can we balance all the benefits of athletic participation with the very real risks?

Risk managers are tasked with weighing these questions and developing sensible concussion plans. These plans should include strategies for minimizing the number of concussions; a concussion education plan for athletes, coaches and parents; and a well-defined protocol to be followed whenever a concussion is suspected.

The New Standard of Care

Gone are the days of brushing off concussions as “getting your bell rung” and returning to play the same day as the injury. As Maya Angelou said, "I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better." As a society, we now know better, and those working in and around athletics are held to a higher standard of care than they once were. The expectation is that every team and every league have a plan in place for concussion education, recognition and response.

Concussions Can be Managed

While we still have much to learn, we know that concussions are serious injuries that can have long-lasting effects. While we can’t eliminate the injuries altogether, we can take measures to reduce the incidence and ensure all potential concussions are taken seriously and athletes are offered appropriate care.

In an ideal world, there would be an athletic trainer/athletic therapist on the sideline of every practice and competition to look after the wellbeing of the athletes, but this isn’t realistic for many youth sports leagues. Even without an AT on the sideline, every team should have access to someone trained in concussion recognition and response.

Concussions Must be Managed

Effective concussion management is going to take a change in the culture. Risk managers, athletic administrators, and coaches play a vital role in setting the tone for a team, an athletic department, or a league. Those in these roles share responsibility for making sure athletes look at concussions with proper perspective and help them understand the rest of their career and rest of their life is more important than any one game or any one season.

We need to replace any thoughts an athlete may have of playing through a concussion as a sign of “toughness” with an understanding of the seriousness and potentially life-altering effects of the injury. Hiding a concussion and playing through isn’t tough, it’s just a bad idea.

We need to instill in athletes the responsibility to care for oneself, one’s teammates, and one’s opponents. Sportsmanship and fair play are more than just positive character traits, they help reduce unnecessary injuries.

Risk managers have a duty to ensure there is a plan in place to educate athletes, coaches, and administrators on how to recognize concussions, and what to do when an athlete is suspected of having a concussion. When dealing with youth leagues, it is also important to educate the parents. Create a shared understanding that athlete safety is paramount and everyone associated with the league is expected to take concussion seriously and work together to care for the athletes.

Preventing Concussions

The physical nature of sports means that concussions are going to happen from time to time. This is a risk inherent with athletic participation. There are ways to minimize the incidence of concussions, though.

Provide safe playing facilities and equipment. Conduct a safety audit of all facilities used for practice and competition. Are there obstacles in the way? Is there equipment lying around that could cause a tripping hazard? Are there walls or posts that need to be padded? Are playing surfaces well-maintained and free of holes? (Even a poorly maintained grass field can increase the chance of concussion by being too hard or causing athletes to fall.)  What can be done to make the athletic facilities safer? Is the equipment being used in good repair, and do athletes have the appropriate and properly fitted safety equipment? Prioritize and address any issues uncovered in your safety audits.

Train athletes to use proper technique. From the earliest stages of sports participation, athletes should be trained to use good form and proper technique that does not put themselves or others at unnecessary risk of injury.

Insist on good sportsmanship. This is part of changing the culture of sports, but good sportsmanship is non-negotiable. Create a culture in which foul play is discouraged. (While a hockey player may get a concussion from falling on the ice, there is no excuse for getting one from engaging in a fight.) Have zero tolerance for dirty play.

Consider low- or no-contact versions of sports. For example, a league could play flag- or two-hand-touch football instead of tackle football. Limiting contact in practice is another option for lowering the risk of concussion. Even some NCAA Division I football programs have moved to eliminating tackling in practices.

While it’s unlikely we’ll completely eliminate concussions anytime soon, we can have an impact by proactively managing the risks we have control over.

Have a Plan

Since it is impossible to prevent all concussions, you must have a plan in place for how you will respond when an athlete is concussed. Don’t wait until an injury happens to think about how you’ll handle it. Have a well-thought-out plan in place long before a competitive season starts, and communicate this plan to everyone involved with the team, athletic department, or league. A plan can only work if people are aware of it. Make sure everyone knows what their role is in preventing, recognizing, and responding to concussions.

Maintain Proper Documentation

It’s hard to overstate the importance of thorough documentation. Risk managers should ensure that every team keeps thorough and up-to-date documentation of:

  • Facility and equipment inspections
  • Pre-participation physical exams
  • Concussion policies and protocols
  • Proof of concussion training
  • Waivers and releases
  • Injury reports with follow-up/progress notes
  • Proof of medical clearance to return to activity following a concussion

In the event of legal action, the judge will want to see both documentation of the organization’s concussion policies and protocols and proof that they were followed.

Putting it All Together

Concussions aren’t going away anytime soon, but neither are athletics. A risk manager should provide leadership on concussion education, prevention, and response efforts for their team or league. There are many proactive steps than can be taken to minimize risk, but it takes consistent effort and a team approach to make real change.

Reference

Br J Sports Med 2017 51: 838-847 originally published online April 26, 2017


Western Lacrosse Association partners with HeadCheck Health to strengthen concussion protocol

BURNABY – The Western Lacrosse Association (‘WLA’) has partnered with HeadCheck Health Inc. (‘HeadCheck’) to strengthen the league’s concussion protocol through the adoption of HeadCheck’s concussion testing platform.

The partnership will equip all WLA teams with HeadCheck’s mobile testing app for use by team trainers and therapists. Access to an enhanced web dashboard allows for easier and more thorough concussion management including a medical clearance process. HeadCheck will run data analysis to supply the WLA with custom reporting to monitor the effectiveness of their concussion protocol and make player health and safety improvements.

“We want to make sure every player in our league is receiving proper concussion testing,” said Paul Dal Monte, WLA Commissioner. “By working with HeadCheck, we will be able to raise the standard of testing across the league and make the WLA safer for our players."

“For a concussion protocol to be effective, it needs to be followed 100% of the time,” said Harrison Brown, CEO of HeadCheck Health. “Our technology will improve testing procedures at the team level and oversight of concussion management at the league level.”

In addition to supplying the WLA with the HeadCheck technology, the company will also provide full training, onboarding, and data management support to the organization throughout the season.

The 2018 Western Lacrosse Association regular season opens on May 23rd when the Burnaby Lakers visit the Langley Thunder at the Langley Events Centre at 7:30pm. View the full 2018 schedule at WLALacrosse.com

About Western Lacrosse Association
The Western Lacrosse Association (WLA) is an amateur league of men’s Senior A box lacrosse sanctioned by the Canadian Lacrosse Association. The WLA consists of seven teams, based in cities throughout southwestern British Columbia, playing an 18-game schedule from late May to the end of July. Each year, the playoff teams battle for the right to compete against the Major Series Lacrosse champion (Ontario) for the Mann Cup every September. The championship is hosted alternately between Ontario (MSL) and British Columbia (WLA) every year. For more information on the WLA, visit http://www.wlalacrosse.com

About HeadCheck Health, Inc.
HeadCheck provides sports team, leagues and organizations with a complete concussion testing and management platform. This includes mobile technology to run baseline and post-injury concussion assessments, an enhanced web management dashboard, and custom reporting. The platform includes today’s gold standard concussion tests and is flexible enough to incorporate the tests specified by any organization’s concussion policy. The technology provides comparable data to help medical professionals make appropriate concussion management decisions. All data is securely stored for convenient 24/7 access and can follow the athlete to all future sports and teams. For more information on HeadCheck Health please visit https://www.headcheckhealth.com/

Contacts:
Paul Dal Monte
WLA Commissioner
wlacommissioner@gmail.com
604.862.6863

Ben Hieltjes
WLA Executive Director
bhieltjes@wlalacrosse.ca

Harrison Brown
HeadCheck Health CEO
hbrown@headcheckhealth.com

Media Contact:
Kari Kylo
604.889.8057
kari@somaworks.com


How A Digital Solution Improves Concussion Management

Concussion management is an issue at the forefront of all competitive sports leagues, teams, and organizations. Addressing the issue begins with having a concussion protocol in place that establishes guidelines for concussion diagnosis and management. While the specifics of a concussion protocol may vary quite a bit depending on the sport, the organization, and the resources available, the goal should always be to ensure athletes who exhibit the signs and symptoms of a concussion are removed from play and are guided back to a safe return to learn or play.

It might sound straightforward on paper, but successful concussion management often involves many individuals inside and outside an organization including administrators, coaches, athletic trainers or therapists, safety officers, risk managers, physicians, clinicians, parents, and athletes. There are several areas where implementing a digital solution can improve the concussion management within an organization.

Improves Testing Procedures: The usage of software, such as a mobile app, can improve the efficiency and accuracy of testing. It also eliminates the need for manual data entry into a system later. All test information can be digitally time-stamped and recorded on an athlete’s profile. Built-in features such as timers and counters on the app create more reliable results and are recommended by research.

Fits Your Requirements: A large organization such as a university or association will often have different requirements for different sports or levels of play. Requirements can also change from sport to sport.  Using a flexible platform will support whichever tests your concussion protocol requires.

Enables Data-Driven Decisions: Digital solutions that store an athlete’s concussion test history provides qualified medical professionals with more information to make key decisions based on evidence. For example, if an athlete has a baseline assessment in their test history, an instant comparison of post-injury and baseline could be shown to highlight any deviations.

Digitizes Documentation: Paper-based tests are often misplaced, lost or completed with no proof when they were conducted or by whom. Further, the storage of this information should meet Health Privacy standards, but the standards are hard to implement and protect. Having test information recorded in one secure, centralized digital system serves to protects the athlete and the organization.

Simplifies Flow of Information: A digital system allows the appropriate individuals in the athlete’s circle of care to have authorized access to information they need to give the best care possible. To improve concussion care, test results should follow the athlete wherever needed. This means from sport to sport, sport to clinic, sport to doctor, and doctor to sport.

Scales to Your Organization: The best digital solutions serve the small and the large organizations. With larger organizations, there are more athletes that need to be tested and more people who are involved in the testing process. A digital solution enables quick survey and patient(athlete) management process for organizations with hundreds of athletes letting you identify the gaps in service you provide. Plus, with so many people involved, it is natural to have turnover and so having a digital platform in place can ease the transition process.

Reduces Risk: A digital solution can make it simple to see who is concussed, who still needs baselines assessments, and who requires medical clearance. It’s vital that athletes are not allowed to return-to-play before they have received the proper medical clearance.

Enhances Protocol: Finally, one of the greatest benefits of a digital solution is the ability to make use of data analytics tools specific to your organization. Analytics allow administrators to see areas where they might be able to improve testing procedures or athlete health and safety standards.

Learn more about how simple it is to get your organization started on HeadCheck’s digital solution. 


BCJALL and BCJT1LL partner with HeadCheck Health to implement concussion testing platform

VANCOUVER – The British Columbia Junior A Lacrosse League (‘BCJALL’) and the BC Junior Tier 1 Lacrosse League (‘BCJT1LL’) announced a new partnership with HeadCheck Health Inc. (‘HeadCheck’) to implement the company’s concussion testing platform in both leagues.

The simple implementation and utilization of the HeadCheck concussion testing platform will raise testing standards in the two leagues and limit the risk of concussion mismanagement. Teams are given the technological tools they need to implement today’s most well-researched concussion testing methods. The leagues are provided with reporting on the effectiveness of their concussion protocol and areas for athlete health and safety improvements.

“Our partnership with the BCJALL and BCJT1LL helps standardize concussion testing across both leagues,” said Harrison Brown, Co-Founder and CEO of HeadCheck Health. “It’s important to us to help raise the level of concussion care for amateur athletes.”

“Our athletes' wellbeing is a major focus in allowing them to pursue the opportunities they earn with U.S. Colleges and playing professionally in the National Lacrosse League,” said Karl Christiansen, President of the BCJALL and Chairman of the BCJT1LL. “We are excited to have HeadCheck Health as a partner to help us advance our concussion protocol and monitor the concussion care of our athletes.”

During the upcoming season, all 8 BCJALL and 10 BCJT1LL teams will use HeadCheck perform baseline and post-injury concussion tests and monitor medical clearance. HeadCheck’s mobile app allows for testing to be done at the time of the suspected injury and provides team athletic therapists with more information to make data-driven decisions. Due to the league-wide adoption of HeadCheck, player concussion history can transfer with them from team-to-team. The company will also provide full training, onboarding, and data management support to the organization throughout the season.


BC Rugby partners with HeadCheck Health to advance current concussion testing procedures with a digital platform

VANCOUVER – BC Rugby is proud to announce a new partnership with HeadCheck Health Inc. (‘HeadCheck’) to implement an innovative digital concussion testing platform for BC Rugby’s Sevens and XVs Representative Teams.

HeadCheck is a concussion testing platform that enhances the way any sports organization manages their concussion policy. The platform’s mobile testing app includes the policy’s concussion tests and leads to faster and more data-driven assessments. An enhanced web dashboard allows for easier and more thorough management of the concussion data collected. The company provides custom reporting to help organizations continuously improve their concussion management policies and procedures

“Player Welfare is BC Rugby’s number one priority and after an initial trial with our sevens programs earlier this year, BC Rugby is extremely excited to partner with HeadCheck Health,” said Dean Murten, Senior Manager, Growth & Development for BC Rugby.

Chair of BC Rugby’s Player Welfare Committee, Monique Charbonneau stated; “BC Rugby aims to lead in continuous advancements to our concussion injury management policies and procedures. Baseline and post-concussion testing is a critical component within our concussion management process. Implementing HeadCheck improves the efficiency of testing for BC Rugby’s Team therapists and gives them the convenience to perform testing on their phones or tablets.”

“Our partnership with BC Rugby will help provincial athletes receive an elevated standard of concussion care,” said Harrison Brown, Co-Founder and CEO of HeadCheck Health. “We are excited to offer our support to all levels of rugby.”

In addition to supplying BC Rugby with the HeadCheck technology, the company will also provide full training, onboarding, and data management support to the organization.

Press Contact

Kari Kylo
604.889.8057
kari@somaworks.com


Ontario passes Rowan's Law to improve concussion safety

On March 6, 2018, Rowan's Law (Concussion Safety), 2018, was passed as new legislation to establish mandatory requirements for amateur sport organizations in Ontario. The aim of the new legislation is to improve concussion safety and protect amateur athletes both on the field and at school.

The mandatory requirements are meant to ensure:

  • Annual review of concussion awareness resources by athletes, coaches, and parents/
    guardians of athletes;
  • Establishment of removal-from-sport and return-to-sport protocols, so that athletes are
    immediately removed from sport if they are suspected of having sustained a concussion; and
  • Establishment of concussion codes of conduct that will set out rules of behavior to minimize
    concussions while playing sport.

In addition to the mandatory requirements, the last Wednesday of every September will be declared "Rowan's Law Day" in honour of Rowan Stringer, the rugby player who tragically passed away in 2013 at just 17 after suffering two concussions in one week.

At HeadCheck, we're very pleased to see any legislation passed that aims to improve the concussion safety of amateur athletes. We work extensively with organizations to ensure their removal-from-sport and return-to-sport protocols are being followed. Please contact us if you have any questions about how we can help.


Rugby Players to Receive Improved Concussion Care from HeadCheck Health and Rugby Safety Network Partnership

HeadCheck Health and Rugby Safety Network align to provide concussion testing and education to every level of rugby

HeadCheck Health (“HeadCheck”) and Rugby Safety Network (“RSN”) today announced a new
partnership to improve player health and welfare in the game of rugby by making standardized
concussion testing and education available to players at all levels of the sport.

“Combining knowledge of the game with technology is the next step in player welfare,” said Jamie
Cudmore, Co-Founder of RSN. “Having the records available is one side of the equation and we will fill
in the other side with the education, training and support a player's needs based on the injuries and
records that HeadCheck shows.”

RSN was founded by Jamie & Jennifer Cudmore following Jamie’s personal experiences with
successive on-field concussions and the consequential symptoms he suffered. RSN was formed with
the dual aims of providing support to players and their families during and after their rugby careers
and to further educate players, parents, coaches and all involved within the rugby community about
head injuries and concussion.

“We're very excited to be partnering with the Rugby Safety Network, reflecting our mutual passion for
improving concussion care in rugby,” said Harrison Brown, Co-Founder, and CEO of HeadCheck. “We
look forward to working closely with RSN to improve and standardize the level of concussion education,
awareness, testing, and support across the sport. Every rugby player deserves quality concussion care,
regardless of their age or level of play."

Based in Canada, HeadCheck developed a system for standardized concussion testing across all
sports. With the correct implementation of HeadCheck by a team or organization the overall aim is
to have a reduction in concussion mismanagement benefitting both the athlete and the organization.
The system includes a mobile app for sideline testing, a web-based admin panel and customized
reporting.

The partnership between RSN and HeadCheck will present a team with a holistic approach to player
welfare by promoting a combination of testing, generated reports and statistics together with the
educational information, training and supports a player requires both to mitigate the risks of
sustaining a concussion and to deal with any injuries suffered. The combination of educational, training
and support materials provided by RSN with the testing technology, player management, and data
analysis of HeadCheck will provide the sport of rugby with a safer field of play into the future.

Our mutual aim is to get firmly ahead of the game when it comes to head injuries and to continually
drive forward player welfare at all times through the use of all available resources, be they
technological, educations or otherwise.

Contact
HeadCheck Health
www.headcheckhealth.com 
info@headcheckhealth.com 
604-737-0053

Rugby Safety Network
www.rugbysafetynetwork.org
iseultcody@rugbysafetynetwork.org


How HeadCheck Implemented a League-Wide Concussion Testing System

Onboarding the British Columbia Hockey League in Four Days

 

When HeadCheck Health partnered with the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) to implement our concussion testing system for the entire league, we knew the challenge would be great but not insurmountable. The BCHL is one of the most scouted and skilled Junior A hockey leagues in Canada with 17 teams and just under 400 athletes. The teams being spread across 945 km² presented a logistical challenge for our task of completing in-person training for each team athletic therapist and supporting them through the initial baseline testing of each player in the league.

We announced our partnership in August and within a week had a plan mapped out for how we were going to get the league up and running. Together with the League executives, we selected five days in September which would have all 17 teams in one city – during the Bauer BCHL Showcase. Shortly after the announcement, we connected with coaches and trainers to confirm the designated training and testing time. Prior to the Showcase, interested AT’s were invited to book an hour with our customer success team to get comfortable with our technology.

"The onboarding process was extremely smooth and efficient. The HeadCheck team worked with each of our teams’ trainers to ensure proper training and implementation. They remain in close contact with our teams and always available to assist directly. Overall I am very pleased with the level of service and support provided.” – Trevor Alto, BCHL Executive Director

Fortunately, the league has some incredibly diligent AT’s who work incredibly hard, long hours, traveling with the team and nurturing the athletes back to health when sick or injured. The season starts early for them – in August with organizing their equipment, stocking their medkits and getting to know their players. It was around this time that the BCHL announced they were moving forward with HeadCheck and in only a week we had meetings booked with those eager to get started.

 

By the time the BCHL Showcase rolled around, we had a detailed plan of attack and a team of four who were tasked with the training and testing for each team. Thanks to the excellent organization of the league, we knew exactly which teams would be in which locker rooms and confirmed with each team where and when we would meet them. Training for teams took about fifteen minutes and testing for each team took between 45-60 minutes depending on how many players and trainers were available for testing. Within four days, we had all athletes tested except for roughly 10 athletes who had not traveled to the Showcase with their team.

https://twitter.com/HeadCheckHealth/status/911291805945126912

We were fortunate that the Athletic Therapists, Coaches, Governors, Owners and League Executives supporting these athletes collectively understood how we could ease some of the pains they faced in executing the league’s concussion testing protocol. By implementing the HeadCheck system, the BCHL now has a standardized concussion testing system for the entire league. Every team is now conducting testing the same way, using the same technology leading to improved player health and safety. When a player moves from team-to-team, their concussion history is transferred with them in the system so the new team can make more informed decisions if another concussion occurs. On a high-level, this type of data collection allows the HeadCheck team to run data analysis and provide the league with actionable insights that can improve safety standards across the league.

Overall, we were pleased that the onboarding process was done efficiently and effectively. We continue to work in partnership with the league to solve any issues and our customer success team is on call for 24/7 support. Onboarding a league of this size proved to be a valuable experience for our team and helps us to provide these services to new leagues that adopt the HeadCheck concussion testing system.

For more information on how HeadCheck can help implement our concussion testing system for your league, team or organization, please fill out the form here and we’ll be in touch!


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.