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Protocols for concussions advised for amateur sports

The Canadian Concussion Collaboration finds local clubs and teams lack resources and knowledge found at pro and varsity level to deal with concussions.

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A group of major Canadian health-care associations is calling on amateur sporting organizations across the country to put in place formal policies for players who suffer hits to the head – something a survey revealed is sorely lacking among local clubs and teams.

"We're doing pretty well in pro sports and varsity sports because the resources are there and the knowledge is there," said Pierre Frémont, a professor in the department of rehabilitation at Laval University's faculty of medicine in Quebec City. "But at lower levels of participation, basically nothing is in place. That's where concussions start."

Dr. Frémont is the chair of the Canadian Concussion Collaborative (CCC), an umbrella organization formed in 2011 that includes the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Paediatric Society, among others. On Thursday, the CCC released its first-ever recommendations for concussion management protocols, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

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The group's chief recommendation is straightforward: Sporting organizations that do not have a protocol laying out what should happen when a player displays signs of a concussion – such as headache, dizziness, confusion or nausea – need to draw one up immediately, review it every year and make it mandatory.

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, a member of the CCC, surveyed 44 national and provincial organizations and clubs in concussion-prone sports this month and found that only 41 per cent had concussion management protocols in place. Of the 14 national and provincial organizations that had a formal policy, only a few made it mandatory for their members to have a protocol, too.

"We're asking bodies with authority on sports organizations to implement requirements, which is almost non-existent across Canada at this point," Dr. Frémont said.

The group's piece in the British Journal of Sports Medicine includes some advice on what a concussion management protocol should accomplish, including possibly setting age limits for participation in contact sports. In general, sports organizations, officials, coaches, parents and players need to be able to recognize when a player has possibly suffered a concussion, remove him or her from the game and then let time and medical advice determine when the player is ready to return to the field, pitch or rink.

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Health reporter

Kelly Grant is a health reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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