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Concussion prevention workshop 2019

“Canada has demonstrated leadership in concussion management from the national level through to provincial, territorial and community sport. Now is the time to look to preventing concussions in the first place.”

Debra Gassewitz, President and CEO of the Sport Information Resource Centre.

More than 80 decision makers and technical directors including 26 national, 12 multi-sport and nine community sport organizations rolled up their sleeves at SIRC’s workshop in June, 2019. Workshop discussion focused on three key opportunities for action: changing behaviours in sport; changing rules and guidelines; and changing training techniques to make sport safer.

“This work doesn’t just happen with a single researcher or research centre. Having the unique model of multidisciplinary researchers working with clinical, community and school partners will give us an opportunity to do something that has not been done before nationally or internationally.”

Dr. Carolyn Emery, University of Calgary

Some of the sport-specific takeaways of innovation and leadership to prevent concussion include:

  • Beth Liverman (Skate Canada) spoke to ongoing efforts within figure skating to prevent concussions, including allowing athletes to be removed from the ice for concussion evaluation without incurring a penalty.
  • Paul Hunter (Rugby Canada) discussed the myriad changes introduced to improve the real and perceived safety of rugby. 

Paul Hunter, Rugby Canada

“We now have a zero-tolerance policy with hits to the head. Rugby already looks different than it did five years ago, even two years ago. We have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. As decision-makers, we have a responsibility to make sport safer.”

Paul Hunter, Rugby Canada
  • Aaron Giesler (Football Canada) spoke to the impacts of system-wide rule changes and the growth of smaller-side games and flag football in concussion prevention.
  • Laura McClemont Steacy (Ontario Artistic Swimming and University of Toronto) presented two concussion studies which supported the importance of coach education. “If we can identify the situations in which our athletes are most vulnerable, then we can start to teach our coaches how to better manage those situations,” said McClemont Steacy.
  • Ron Yeung (Basketball Canada) presented several training practices and behaviours to prevent concussions in basketball, including proper techniques to defend, “square up,” “block out,” and take a charge.
  • Julie Steggall (Freestyle Canada) highlighted advances in training, course design and safety equipment as key strategies to reduce concussions and injury in freestyle skiing.
  • Kerry MacDonald (Volleyball Canada) discussed injury surveillance, a new warm-up protocol, and an assessment of ball properties to prevent concussion.

For more details on the workshop, please read SIRC’s press release and photo gallery:

“The question today is, how do we make our sports just as compelling and fun to play, while also reducing the number of brain injuries significantly?”

Ken Dryden, Hockey Hall of Famer, former Liberal cabinet minister and author