Kinesiology researcher leads ground-breaking pan-Canadian research program
Calgary, AB - Ash Kolstad was 12-years old when his head hit the boards after he was checked from behind during a hockey game resulting in a severe concussion and whiplash. The injury forced the honour student to leave school for one year and quit the sport. Nearly a decade later, he still suffers symptoms every day.
“It altered my life,” says Kolstad, now a patient-engaged student researcher in the Faculty of Kinesiology at the University of Calgary. “This research is really important because it sheds light on the impact of concussion and will help provide families with the most current and accurate information which is reassuring to them.”
Youth account for more than half of the annual burden of more than three million concussions annually in North America. The University of Calgary has received $12 million CDN from the National Football League’s scientific advisory board for a pan-Canadian research program, led by Dr. Carolyn Emery, PT PhD, researcher in the Faculty of Kinesiology, to reduce concussions and their consequences in youth sport on a national level.
“We are grateful for this financial support from the NFL scientific advisory board and the support of our many collaborators,” says Dr. Elizabeth Cannon, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Calgary. “The best treatment for injuries from youth sport and recreation is prevention. This funding will further advance the Faculty of Kinesiology’s leadership in injury prevention and concussion.”
Through the NFL’s Play Smart. Play Safe. initiative, this round, $35 million USD in funding was allotted to five institutions in North America for medical research, primarily dedicated to neuroscience. The University of Calgary is the only institution in Canada to receive funding.
Led by Dr. Emery, PT PhD, the program, SHRed Concussions, short for Surveillance in High Schools to Reduce Concussions and Consequences of Concussions in Youth, will provide a national platform for concussion surveillance in high schools to evaluate novel and sustainable solutions for concussion prevention that will have significant impact in reducing the risk of sport-related concussions and their consequences in youth.
“This is an exciting and truly a Pan-Canadian research initiative aimed to reduce the burden of concussions in youth sport nationally,” says Dr. Emery, who chairs The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre in the Faculty of Kinesiology at the University of Calgary, which is one of 10 International Research Centres for the Prevention of Injury and Protection of Athlete Health supported by the International Olympic Committee.
“This funding is the key to reducing concussions and their public health impact in youth sport,” says Dr. Emery. “It will support the development, implementation and evaluation of novel and sustainable approaches to concussion prevention through rule changes, equipment recommendations and training strategies.”
Dr. Keith Yeates, PhD, Ward Chair in Pediatric Brain Injury and leader of the University of Calgary Integrated Concussion Research Program, says the NFL support is a recognition of the university as a world leader in concussion.
“The University of Calgary is among the top five worldwide in terms of scientific advances in concussion, and this award to Dr. Emery confirms our stature as a world leader in concussion research and knowledge translation,” says Dr. Yeates, who is also a professor in the Faculty of Arts.
Collaboration across Canada
The SHRed Concussions research team includes more than 35 researchers representing nine Canadian universities and more than 30 community, government and industry partners, and research includes a variety of youth sports, including ice hockey, rugby, football, lacrosse, wrestling, soccer, basketball, volleyball and cheerleading.
"It's an honour to contribute to this pan-Canadian research study and to have the ability to engage high school students from Ontario.I commend Dr. Carolyn Emery and her team at the University of Calgary for their success in securing this important research grant and thank her for creating a strong team of collaborators across the country, including from Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and the University of Toronto.I look forward to working together to improve the lives of youth locally and across the country," says Dr. Nick Reed, senior clinician scientist, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital (Holland Bloorview), and scientific co-lead of the Centre for Leadership in Acquired Brain Injury at Holland Bloorview.
“Parachute is thrilled to be a partner on the SHRed Concussion Project,” says Steve Podborski, President and CEO of Parachute, Canada’s national charity dedicated to injury prevention. “We led the creation of the Canadian Guideline for Concussion in Sport and welcome this important research that will evaluate concussion diagnostic tools, prognostic indicators, and prevention and management strategies in young athletes. In our work, we translate such research into practice and look forward to applying the discoveries of this project to improve Canada’s evidence-based prevention and management strategies for concussion for our young athletes and, indeed, for all Canadians.”
The funding will assist in establishing and validating injury surveillance in high schools to “SHRed Concussions,” integrating a variety of tools to detect concussion, predict recovery, and inform best practice and policy in the prevention and management of concussions in youth sport.
“This extensive and groundbreaking research and subsequent education will allow for a positive change in the way coaches coach. It will set up the next generation of youth to enjoy a lower incidence of injury in sports, less injury downtime, and in turn, a lower drop-out rate in school and community sport across Canada,” says John Paton, Executive Director, Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association and Past-President of School Sport Canada.
People ask Kolstad if he is resentful about the recommendations he received at the time of his concussion, which one coach referred to as “just a bump on his head.”
“Concussion was not as well understood a few years ago, concussion research has come a long way,” says Kolstad. “I’m not resentful, I’m just glad it led me to concussion research that will help others.”
Dr. Carolyn Emery, PT PhD quote: « Ce programme de recherche national va démontrer jusqu’à quel point la collaboration entre des milieux scolaires, sportifs et de la santé dans l’application de principes simples de prévention, de détection précoce et de gestion structurée peut permettre de gérer, de façon sécuritaire, la problématique des les commotions cérébrales chez les jeunes ».
About the NFL Scientific Advisory Board
Through the NFL’s Play Smart. Play Safe. initiative, $40 million in funding was allotted for medical research, primarily dedicated to neuroscience. The NFL assembled a scientific advisory board (SAB) comprising leading independent experts, doctors, scientists and clinicians to develop and lead a clear process to identify and support compelling proposals for scientific research. The SAB is chaired by Peter Chiarelli, U.S. Army General (Retired), former Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, and former CEO of One Mind, a brain research-related non-profit organization.
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University of Calgary
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About the University of Calgary
The University of Calgary is a global intellectual hub located in Canada’s most enterprising city. In our spirited, highquality learning environment, students thrive in programs made rich by research, hands-on experiences and entrepreneurial thinking. Our strategy drives us to be recognized as one of Canada’s top five research universities, engaging the communities we both serve and lead. This strategy is called Eyes High, inspired by the university's Gaelic motto, which translates as 'I will lift up my eyes.' For more information, visit ucalgary.ca/eyeshigh.