Concussions in Youth Sports: A Look at Canada’s Statistics

Concussions in Youth Sports: A Look at Canada’s Statistics

The nature of physical play and contact sports have caused the risks of concussions to be part of the public conversation surrounding these activities. When speaking to any group of Canadians, most individuals with either have sustained a brain injury in his or her lifetime, or have a close friend or family member who has. While concussions are somewhat common, new research has shown that the rates of concussion for children and youth have increased dramatically over the past five years. These worrying statistics have led to a national debate over the nature of sports culture, and the kinds of activities that should and shouldn’t be allowed.

In 2016-2017, over 17,000 sports-related injuries were seen in Ontario and Alberta emergency departments alone. In fact, 26% of all brain injuries were due to sports. Shockingly, emergency department visits in these 2 provinces for these types of injuries has increased by an average 28% over the last five years. That statistic skyrockets for children under the age of 10, whose visits have increased by 50%. The top activities associated with brain injuries were mainly hockey, followed by cycling, football/rugby and skiing/snowboarding. Of these, 94% were concussion related. Not surprisingly, contact sports were the most common recreation-related activities with reported concussions, for both sexes and in all age groups.

Accidental injuries are a leading cause of death, hospitalization, and disability among Canadians, and of these concussions are among the most common. The best way to assist in making sure that sports environments are safe is by increasing our awareness of these important issues. According to the government of Canada, 50% of Canadians have little or no knowledge about concussions, and 25% do not know how concussions are treated. When asked, only 15% can correctly identify the best treatment.

Health professionals, coaches, athletes, parents and educators must be holistically trained in understanding the risks involved with brain injuries, and ways to prevent and treat them. Enter Parachute, a national charity “founded in 2012, promotes researched, evidence-based and expert-advised resources and tools that can help to prevent serious harm or death from preventable injuries.” Since they began, Parachute has worked tirelessly to provide evidence-based information and tools that are accessible to everyone. These include the Canadian Guideline on Concussion in Sport, Return to School Strategy, Return to Sport Strategy, the Canadian Harmonized Concussion Protocols, a SchoolFirst resource for teachers and school boards to support children and youth after experiencing a concussion, and their Mobile App to guide parents in the management of their child’s concussion.

If you are a parent or loved one of a child who is passionate about sports, know that these resources are available to you at the click of a button. Knowledge is power, and being aware of safety precautions and procedures will lead to a more fun and enriching sports experience for everyone involved.

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