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Online concussion library a one-stop resource for information, research

A Canadian doctor has developed a one-stop online resource aimed at educating the public about concussion and providing a comprehensive catalogue of research about the sports-related brain injury.

Sports medicine specialist Paul Echlin said he decided to launch the Sports Concussion Library after years of treating young athletes who had sustained a concussion and finding how little they and their parents knew about the injury.

"I just got tired of seeing these young men and women coming into my office with serious brain injuries, often poorly identified and treated, and misunderstandings with the patient and with the patient's parents a lot of the time," Dr. Echlin said in a telephone interview from his Burlington, Ont., practice.

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"I was also tired of witnessing adults around young athletes ignoring serious brain injuries due to the win-at-all-costs feelings and returning these players back (to the game) and saying we didn't know about this," he said, referring to treatment guidelines that restrict mental and physical activities following a concussion.

Dr. Echlin said while there are multiple online sites that discuss various aspects of concussion, there was no one website where all the information was pulled together into one package.

"Now there's no excuse to say you didn't know because it's out there, it's one place, it's easily accessible, without cost or commercial value."

The new site launched Thursday (http://www.dev.sportconcussionlibrary.com/) provides access to more than 1,500 studies and articles published in medical journals as well as about 60 thesis and book chapters dealing with concussion.

The online resource also contains interactive teaching modules and the SCAT 2, or sideline concussion assessment tool, a questionnaire used by physicians and therapists to screen for signs of concussion in hockey, football and other players who have taken a shot or knock to the head.

By accessing it on the website, sports teams can also use the SCAT 2 test without cost, he said.

Dr. Echlin said the library is primarily aimed at young athletes and their parents, "so they can visit the site together, and together the parent and child can learn about what concussion is – the cause of concussion, signs of concussion, symptoms and basic treatment."

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Rather than being filled with photos of professional athletes, the website carries "generic pictures of people who look like themselves and are in situations like themselves and can make decisions like themselves," he said.

"This is a public service ... It's not about commercialized sport. It's about the public health of our children.

"Parents are key to this. They can be pro-active and empowered. Because I think in the past the parents haven't been empowered and they felt at the mercy of sports people, and not even physicians.

"So it's about them determining what's best for their children."

Several non-profit organizations, including the Dave Irwin Foundation for Brain Injury Recovery and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, sponsor the online library. No commercial sports or other profit-making organizations finance the website.

After setting up an account and logging in, users can click on multiple links, which will take them to concussion-related information from such sources as ThinkFirst Canada, the Mayo Clinic and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The website also includes documentaries on the brain injury and testimonials about concussion from athletes and parents.

Michael Cusimano, a neurosurgeon at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto and a concussion-prevention advocate, said there's a "huge need" for such an online resource, especially for the public. "This kind of site fills that need nicely."

Dr. Cusimano said the site provides links to information from trustworthy sources that have a level of expertise that he believes people are seeking. And it's not only the public that can benefit, but also professionals like primary-care physicians who want to know the most up-to-date information about how to recognize and treat the brain injury, he said.

"Let's say a family doctor has someone who comes into their office, and the last time they saw, say, a teenager with concussion was two years ago," he said. "And they want to know what's new or they've heard about this thing SCAT 2, but they don't really know what it is.

"Well, it's right there. They just open it up and they print it off and it's there for them."

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