June 15, 2023

International research panel updates consensus on treating concussion in sport

UCalgary faculty, staff and trainees play major role in international recommendations for concussion management
UCalgary researchers are working on the International Consensus on Concussion
UCalgary researchers worked on the international consensus on concussion. Heike Dennhard, International Olympic Committee

Every four years, a major event in the sport and health communities happens as a result of years of preparation and thousands of hours of work by teams from around the world. You would be forgiven for thinking this event was the World Cup or the Olympics. As important as those events are, this event has perhaps even more impact on the health and well-being of people globally: the international consensus statement on concussion in sport.

“Commonly known as the ‘consensus statement,’ this statement provides evidence-informed consensus recommendations for health-care professionals to use when caring for athletes with a sport-related concussion or who are at risk of a sport-related concussion,” says Dr. Kathryn Schneider, PhD, associate professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology, who co-led the consensus statement published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

You or someone you know has likely had a concussion. One in five Canadians has suffered from a concussion, and 70% of concussions sustained annually happen to a child or youth. 

Scientific foundation for guidelines worldwide

The consensus statement is written by a group of researchers and clinicians from around the world. It was last published in 2017 following the 5th International conference on concussion in sport in Berlin, Germany (October 2016). Typically, the statements are released in four-year increments, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest international concussion consensus meeting in Amsterdam was delayed to 2022.

The international consensus process is supported by an international organizing committee made up of members from the International Olympic Committee, World Rugby, the International Ice Hockey Federation, the Federation Internationale de Football Association, Fédération Équestre Internationale, and the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile who provided conference organizational support and an educational grant to support the administrative aspects of the process.

The consensus statement on concussion is used around the world to provide recommendations that can be adapted to regional circumstances. For example, the Berlin consensus statement released in 2016 was used to inform the Canadian Guidelines on Concussion in Sport released by Parachute Canada.

UCalgary plays prominent role in latest consensus statement

Kathryn Schneider

Kathryn Schneider.

Adrian Shellard

Given the importance of such a document and process on the international stage, it is significant that over 35 different UCalgary researchers, trainees, librarians and staff played an important role. Three UCalgary researchers played prominent roles:

  • Dr. Schneider was the co-chair of the scientific committee, co-chaired the consensus meeting, and was a co-lead author of the consensus statement. Schneider also led the development of the methodology that informed the writing of the systematic reviews and the consensus process and led the systematic review evaluating the effects of treatment/rehabilitation following sport-related concussion.
  • Dr. Carolyn Emery, PhD, Faculty of Kinesiology, was a member of the expert panel and led the writing of the systematic review on prevention.
  • Dr. Keith Yeates, PhD, Faculty of Arts, was a member of the expert panel and led the writing of the systematic review on persisting symptoms.

Together, the team from UCalgary put in countless hours over five years in preparation and support of the release of the concussion statement. This also included work on the 10 systematic reviews that informed the consensus process which are published alongside the statement. 

Making an impact and keeping people safer

The consensus statement is eagerly awaited at the national and local community levels around the world where health-care providers such as physiotherapists, physicians and other health-care professionals who treat people with concussions or suspected concussions can use them to inform their practices.

“Caring for athletes and keeping people safe while participating and enjoying sports and recreation activities has always been at the forefront of the consensus statement authors’ minds,” says Schneider.

“A simple, clear message and tools that will equip practitioners to prevent, diagnose, and manage concussion in sport is exciting and I’m so honoured to be part of the process and working with such an amazing team locally and from around the world.”

The Integrated Concussion Research Program (ICRP) is a university-wide initiative to study concussion, which has brought together experts from the Cumming School of MedicineFaculty of Kinesiology, and Faculty of Arts, with support from the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute. The Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation was instrumental in the creation of the ICRP and provides continuing support.

The Faculty of Kinesiology is the No. 1 ranked sport science school in North America and No. 11 globally. As a direct result of the 1988 Olympics, the Faculty of Kinesiology is able to develop a world-class environment for research and learning as well as build superb training facilities for coaches and athletes at the varsity, community and Olympic level. Kinesiology students receive high-quality and relevant, experiential learning opportunities that inform their future careers and contribute to research and scholarship in the faculty and university. The faculty is also the home of the successful Dinos varsity teams, Olympic Oval, Active Living, Outdoor Centre and the Sport Medicine Centre.

Dr. Kathryn Schneider, PhD, is an associate professor and clinician scientist (physiotherapist) at UCalgary's Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre, Faculty of Kinesiology. She is also a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute. The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre is one of 11 International Research Centres for the Prevention of Injury and Protection of Athlete Health supported by the International Olympic Committee.

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