The growing epidemic

Way to help out, Frank./ image: Jarrett Crowe

Way to help out, Frank./ image: Jarrett Crowe

A look at how Windsor tackles concussions

Article: Mike Specht – The Lance / University of Windsor

WINDSOR (CUP) — Windsor natives Spencer Jean and Jordano Papa have seen firsthand how concussions can hinder ones quality of life. With a combined 20 registered concussions between them, Jean and Papa have dedicated their lives to concussion research and rehabilitation.

Jean, a retired semi-pro hockey player is certified in Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation; while Papa, who played in the Ontario Soccer Association and studied pre-law at the University of Western Ontario.

In 2012 they formed the Concussion Education and Prevention Agency (CEPA) to raise awareness and treat local athletes.

“Our rehabilitation program is designed in conjunction with the CDC (United States Center for Disease Control),” stated Papa. “It is a six-step process that allows players to regain their mental cognitive ability as well as their confidence in their respective sport.”

Concussions are quickly becoming an epidemic in sports, with many athletes having their careers threatened by hits to the head.

Head injuries do not only pose an immediate threat to those afflicted. Health concerns later in life often arise in those who continually sustain concussions, most notably chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

CTE is a degenerative brain disease that eventually causes dementia. The startling number of CTE cases in professional athletes has caused many who participate in collision sports to donate their brains to science. Currently, the only way to diagnose CTE is post-mortem, which speaks to the level of mystery that surrounds head injuries.

“There is still a significant amount that we do not know about the brain, our goal is to set up a network to get every athlete in the area tested with a baseline.  That way, subsequent injuries can be monitored and compared to the player’s [former] cognitive ability. The hope being that the athlete can return at the same ability at which they left,” said Jean.

Working out of the Active Body Physiotherapy Clinic in Tecumseh, Ont., CEPA treats athletes through sense tests catered to the specific concussion.

“As no two concussions are alike, no two concussion management programs should be the same,” said Papa.  “We try to tailor all of our return to play protocols to the individual injury.  The only way to ensure the most concise result is to incorporate a variety of tests to hit every stimuli, or marker that the athlete exhibits.  One athlete may respond well to a visual-based test, but poorly to a hearing test.”

Statistics Canada estimates that there are nearly 30,000 diagnosed concussions in athletes aged 12 to 19 every year.  Young athletes who compete for the love of sport often return to action before their brains have had time to heal, leaving them susceptible to further damage.

“Second impact syndrome is a condition that occurs when an individual sustains a second concussion before the initial concussion has fully recovered,” Jean said. “This can cause hemorrhaging in the brain and we see this in many minor athletes. I don’t want to see a child go through what concussions can bring, I myself am still going through the effects and will continue to for the rest of my life.”

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