The University of Calgary is the sole Canadian institution that will benefit from a funding initiative from the National Football League aimed at researching youth concussion rates.

Youth account for over 50 percent of the three million concussions in North America and the funding, from the NFL’s scientific advisory board, will help to reduce concussions in youth and the consequences they have on youth sport.

The funding comes from the league’s Play Smart, Play Safe program and the U of C was among five schools in the continent that were awarded the research dollars, primarily dedicated to neuroscience.

Dr. Carolyn Emery, lead researcher at the Faculty of Kinesiology, says the funding is a ‘pivotal opportunity’ to transform the landscape in youth concussion research.

“I am really honoured to be working with over 35 researchers from over nine institutions and multiple community partners across Canada to ‘shred’ concussions. Shred concussions stands for surveillance in high schools to reduce concussions and consequences of concussions in youth.”

She says that the prevalence of concussions in youth in the country are still quite high.

“Each year in Canada, more than 1 in 10 youth will sustain a sport-related concussion. 30 percent of these are recurrent and 30 percent of these kids will be symptomatic for months.”

Emery says the work will evaluate risk factors for concussions, predictors of recovery and the effectiveness of novel concussion prevention and management strategies across multiple sports.

“We will recruit over 6,000 high school students across 60 schools nationally and we will follow these students for three years to form novel concussion prognostic and diagnostic tools.”

She says that the funding will help them move forward a project of national scope to identify the different areas to prevent concussions in sport.

“One is through equipment recommendations, one is through rules or policy changes and the third is through training strategies such as contact drills.”

12 of the schools that the U of C will be working with are in Alberta, says Emery.

“It’s a huge opportunity for prevention and management as we try to harmonize efforts across Canada.”

In youth particularly, 60 percent of concussions sustained occur during sporting activities.

(With files from Mark Villani)