A national concussion strategy was unveiled in Calgary on Monday and officials say the guidelines will help protect Canada’s high-performance athletes from sports-related concussions.

The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Sport Institute Network, Own the Podium, Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee developed the standardized sport-related concussion guidelines to help protect and assess the health and safety of athletes.

“The purpose of this is to provide a standardized approach to concussion recognition, assessment and management so a high-performance athlete will receive the same level of care across the country,” said Dr. Brian Benson, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Sport Medicine, Canadian Sport Institute Calgary and Benson Concussion Institute.

The strategy was created to ensure policy, protocol and education programs are up-to-date and in place to address concussion, code of conduct and removal and return to sport if concussion occurs.

The guidelines suggest all high-risk athletes complete clinical assessments under a physician’s supervision during the pre-season and before training camp.

“A concussion is such a diffuse injury, there’s many things that it controls, it’s the command centre of the human body so getting to know an athlete in their healthy, baseline state is critical to be able to detect impairment post injury and really target individualized treatment strategies. There may be many overlapping features that can produce concussion-like symptoms including neck injuries, vision or gaze problems, sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, migraine headaches or ADHD. If you know that athlete very well, in that baseline, healthy state, if they do sustain a concussive injury during the year, we’ll be able to know that athlete, try to really tease out what’s neurologic impairment and what’s not,” said Dr. Benson.

The strategy calls for the athlete to be removed from training and competition for immediate evaluation if a concussion is suspected and if an athlete suffers a severe head or spine injury during play, they are to be transported to the closest emergency department for assessment.

The plan also covers criteria for concussion management and conditions that must be satisfied before athletes who have suffered a concussion can return to their sports.

Olympic Wrestler, Danielle Lappage, sustained a concussion last year at a training camp and says she was concerned about brain trauma as she plans to become a lawyer when her athletic career wraps up.

She says she was treated by Dr. Benson and that the baseline tests she had before the concussion occurred helped to determine when she would be able to return to her sport.

“This brain injury is more stressful than most other injuries just because you can’t work out twice a day like you’re used to doing and you can’t study, you can’t read, you can’t watch TV, you can’t do anything and the timeline of getting back to sport is more uncertain too compared to other physical injuries so I was scared but I was also confident he wouldn’t let me go back before I was ready,” said Lappage.

Up-to-date sport concussion policy and protocols must be in place for the following high-risk sports:

  • Olympic winter sports: Alpine Skiing, Freestyle Skiing, Ski Jumping, Snowboard, Speed Skating – Short and Long Track, Figure Skating, Ice Hockey, Bobsleigh, Skeleton, Luge.
  • Olympic summer sports: Boxing, Wrestling, Football (Soccer), Rugby, Basketball, Cycling(track, road, BMX, mountain), Equestrian, Field Hockey, Gymnastics, Trampoline, Handball, Judo, Synchronized Swimming, Taekwondo, Volleyball, Water Polo, Diving, Athletics –Pole Vault
  • Paralympic winter sports: Para-Alpine, Para-Snowboard, Sledge Hockey.
  • Paralympic summer sports: Para-Cycling, Para-Equestrian, Judo, Sitting Volleyball, Soccer 7-A-Side, Wheelchair Basketball, Wheelchair Rugby, Goalball, Wheelchair Athletics.
  • Effective immediately, the guidelines will be recognized before and at Olympic and Paralympic Games, Pan American and Parapan American Games.
  • Officials say the guidelines will need to be reviewed on a regular basis.

For more on the national concussion strategy, click HERE.