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Concussions in Sport


With the recent events surrounding Sidney Crosby’s lengthy recovery from his concussion injury, this very touchy subject is again in the headlines. Amateur and professional sports associations (most notably football and hockey) have been struggling to find ways to protect their players without changing the whole fabric of the sport. It seems the more information medical researchers are discovering about concussions and their long term effects, the worse the news becomes.


While there have been great strides in the identification of concussion at the professional levels of sport where the athletes have immediate access to the best medical care available, much confusion on when to return to active play remains. Often times, as was seen with several pro athletes, players will be medically cleared to return to their sport only to have symptoms return with an increase in activities. These days, players are being closely monitored daily to ensure there is no increase in symptoms associated with an increase in exertion.

Unfortunately in amateur athletics, parents and coaches are often left wondering if their child or athlete did suffer a concussion. If an athlete does suffer a concussion, how serious is it and when can they return? An appointment with a neurologist can be very helpful to complete a thorough check, however this can takes months to arrange.

I have been around concussions in hockey as a player, coach and chiropractor. Often I will see patients who have suffered a concussion concurrently with musculoskeletal injuries. As a minor hockey coach, tough decisions need to be made with a player who just “had their bell rung”. Often times the athlete will report feeling good after a hit to the head and be eager to play again. Sometimes pressure from the parents may unfortunately be exerted as well. As a coach, it is important to know some of the common symptoms of a concussion. Signs of a concussion can include:

  • Symptoms (such as headache), or
  • Physical signs (such as unsteadiness), or
  • Impaired brain function (e.g. confusion) or
  • Abnormal behaviour

If an athlete exhibits any of these symptoms following contact to the head, they should be removed from the game or practice and should consult with a healthcare professional before returning to sport.

The Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT) has been developed in partnership with many prominent sport associations and is used as a screening tool and for pre-season baseline testing. It is mainly utilized as a clearance tool in conjunction with a thorough check up by a professional after a head injury occurs. The SCAT is also used as monitor for when an athlete is ramping up activities that enables a coach or parent to monitor an athlete for setbacks. In my humble opinion, the SCAT should be used before the season begins as it is quite easy to administer. It can be found here.

With head injuries, it is better to be conservative with athletes and take the time to make sure they are ready to return. If a player suffers a second head injury before they have fully recovered from the first, often the outcomes are considerably worse so it is important to ensure they have fully recovered. This type of injury often requires an interdisciplinary approach between medical doctors, chiropractors and therapists (as seen with Crosby) to ensure a healthy future.

Feel free to submit any questions or comments to [email protected].

Thanks and have a healthy day!

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Dr. Nimchuk graduated from Logan College of Chiropractic and has been practicing in Kelowna since 2008.  Dr. Nimchuk is one of a few full body certified Active Release Technique practitioners in the Okanagan Valley. It has become known as a very effective treatment for muscle and nerve in athletics with almost every professional sports team in North America retaining the services of an ART certified Chiropractor. Dr. Nimchuk has worked with athletes ranging from weekend warriors to Olympic champions and brings the same philosophy and treatment approach to every patient.

Dr. Nimchuk has recently opened Momentum Health, a new interdisciplinary health centre in downtown Kelowna.  The centre offers chiropractic, registered massage therapy and exercise therapy. 

In addition to being a chiropractor, Dr. Nimchuk is also registered as a Certified Exercise Physiologist with the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology, which is the highest level of professional fitness certification available in Canada.

In addition to private practice, Dr. Nimchuk works with both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Border Services Agency as a consultant to assist recruits and members reach and maintain the required health and fitness for their work. Dr. Nimchuk also a frequent speaker to business organizations and community groups on topics such as injury prevention, ergonomics and workplace health.

Please visit our website at www.momentumkelowna.com or call us at 778-484-6070.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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