Youth concussion rates have reached a frightening level in Canada, says a new report.
In a result which is sure to further concerns over child safety in sports and athletics, the latest data on sport-related concussions in Canada has revealed significant increases in the number of emergency room visits for sport-related brain injuries, especially among children and teens.
A new report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) states that over the past five years in the provinces of Alberta and Ontario -the two for which records were collected- sport-related brain injury visits to emergency rooms shot up among younger Canadians, with a 45 per cent rise in emergency room visits by youth aged ten to 17 and a shocking 78 per cent increase in visits for children nine years old and younger.
The CIHI report found that 94 per cent of sport-related brain injury visits in the two provinces during 2014 and 2015 were concussion related and that 62 per cent were made by males.
Youth concussion rates higher due to hockey, cycling and football…
“Concussions make up the majority of sport-related brain injuries in Canada,” says Greg Webster, director of Acute and Ambulatory Care Information Services at CIHI, the independent not-for-profit institution charged with making health information publicly available to Canadians. “The data provides an indication of how many Canadians from just two provinces are going to the emergency department and are being hospitalized as a result of these kinds of injuries, which can have serious long-term consequences.”
Of the more than 15,000 sport-related brain injuries seen in Ontario and Alberta emergency rooms in 2014 and 2015, 27 per cent were found to be sport-related, with hockey, cycling and football/rugby leading to the largest numbers of hospital visits. The report found that hockey-related visits for brain injuries occurred at a rate almost double that for cycling, football/rugby and skiing/snowboarding.
The news comes on the heels of a study this month from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto which found that the brains of university athletes with a history of concussion showed reduced brain volume particularly in the frontal lobe and reduced blood flow to specific areas, abnormalities which could affect brain activity such as impulse control and problem-solving. The study compared MRI results from 43 varsity athletes roughly half of whom had a history of concussion and found a ten to 20 per cent reduction in brain volume in the athletes with concussion historymalong with changes to the structure of the brain’s white matter which acts as a connective fibre between different parts of the brain.
“Sport concussion is still considered to be a short-term injury, but this study provides further evidence of brain changes that may lead to long-term health consequences, including the risk of re-injury, depression and cognitive impairments,” says Nathan Churchill, lead author of the study and post-doctoral fellow in St. Michael’s Neuroscience Research Program.
A study released earlier this year on the long-term risks of concussion found that the risks of suicide in adults who had a concussion were three times higher than the population average. An estimated 400,000 cases of concussion occur in Canada each year.