Concussions are a risk for any child that plays a sport. In fact, they see fifteen hundred kids each year at the Alberta Children’s Hospital for concussions.
I spoke with Neurologist Dr. Karen Barlow, the Director of the Brain Injury and Rehabilitation Program at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and she says one in five children will sustain a concussion before the age of 16. And one of the biggest risk factors is sport, and among the sports one of the biggest risk factors is hockey.
Dr. Barlow says there is not a lot one can do to prevent concussions. Wearing a good helmet, with the straps tightly fastened can help prevent a more severe concussion, but you can still get a concussion even if you’re wearing a helmet. Dr. Barlow says a concussion is a brain injury. When it comes to hockey, a concussion can occur after a child takes a hit, falls, or slides into the boards. When the child takes that hit, the head pivots on the neck and the brain moves inside the skull, so nerves can be sheared or a bruise can occur on the brain.
Coaches these days are taught to recognize the symptoms of concussion but as a parent, here’s what to watch out for:
– your child gets up from the hit and is confused, maybe starts skating in the wrong direction
– your child complains of a headache, either the day of the hit or even the next day
– your child may also complain of dizziness and neck pain
The most important thing to do right away says Dr. Barlow is to get the child off the ice. The phrase “when in doubt, sit them out” is critical here. Most children do not need to be taken by ambulance to the Children’s, but most kids should probably see a doctor in Emergency. It’s an opportunity says Dr. Barlow to rule out a rare brain bleed and it’s a good time to educate parents about what they should monitor over the next few days.
Dr. Barlow says most children with a concussion should rest for a few days and that includes cognitive rest… so no major exams or projects. TV is fine. She says most kids will recover in a few days, or at least within two weeks. If a child still has symptoms at one month, Dr. Barlow wants to see them in her brain injury clinic.
It’s critical that a child fully recovers from that concussion before returning to play. Dr. Barlow recommends a child have no symptoms at rest, then have no symptoms after a practice before they return to play on the ice. Studies show that once a child has had one concussion, their risk for getting another goes up. Research also shows that if a child sustains another concussion within 12 months of the first one, it will take them longer to recover. That’s why recovering from that first injury needs to be complete.
For more information, visit this website.
For the most part, Dr. Barlow says most children will recover in a few days.
With our BT Outdoor Classic underway these little hockey players are skating their hearts out! But with every sport, comes the risk of injury.
I spoke with Physiotherapist Julia Brooks from the Alberta Children’s Hospital about the best ways to keep our young players safe on the ice.
Brooks says 86 percent of injuries in young hockey players are due to body checking. Now these Atom players are not body checking so she’s not seeing the big fractures and lower body muscles strains she sees in older players, as she does in these guys. Injuries in this age group usually include wrist and finger fractures from falling on the ice or into the boards. Brooks says there really isn’t too much parents and kids can do to prevent these injuries. That said, Brooks recommends getting your child as stable on their skates as possible by practicing their skating so they have better balance.
Brooks also recommends these young players develop a strong warm up routine that includes stretching. Brooks says in older kids she sees lots of quad pulls, groin pulls and hamstring pulls as well as fractures from body checking. To prevent some of these lower body strains, the best thing for kids to do is warm up beforehand. Brooks recommends going for a little run, even doing some jumping jacks and stretching. She says just 10 minutes will help. Brooks says getting the blood flowing into those muscles helps them stretch better so they can react quicker to the puck without pulling or straining. And if the young skaters develop this routine now, it will help prevent injuries down the road.
Also really important… proper fitting equipment. Brooks says she knows it is hard because these kids grow so fast and the equipment is expensive but protecting the young skaters from injury now pays off in the long run.
And if your child does get injured make sure they have one pain-free, full range of motion practice, BEFORE they head back on the ice for a game.
Most people during cold and flu season are trying to avoid getting sick, but researchers at the University of Calgary are giving the real cold virus to willing participants all in the name of science.
Dr. Richard Leigh, a lung specialist, and his team are the only researchers in the country and among only a handful in the world authorized to give the human cold virus, or the rhinovirus, to these volunteers.
Before particpants are given the virus, they undergo various testing and procedures. Then they’re given the virus and once they get symptoms (which are mild: a runny nose and slight headache) they’ll undergo more testing for about 45 minutes a day for 5 days. Two study days will be a bit longer, 3 to 4 hours, because participants will undergo mild sedation so the researchers can take a small bioposy of their lungs. The procedure itself only takes about 15 minutes and the sedation would be similar to the kind you’d receive at the dentist.
They’re trying to understand why smokers do worse with a cold than non smokers. They are testing a couple of theories. One theory is that cigarette smoke enhances the immune response to a cold in the body in a detrimental way so smokers end up with increased inflammation and worsening symptoms.
Researchers are still looking for particpants. They are looking for ‘healthy’ smokers, mild asthmatics and healthy individuals. Volunteers are reimbursed for all out of pocket expenses.
If you are interested phone 403-220-2123.
Heart disease is the number one killer of women… more than most of the cancers combined, yet many women do not realize this startling fact. So for Heart Month we’re looking at what women need to know to protect themselves.
I spoke with Cardiologist Dr. Sarah Weeks who says it’s important to first know your risk factors for heart disease:
– high blood pressure
– high cholesterol
It’s also important to know that women do not usually have the same symptoms of a heart attack as men do. So the pain in the arm and crushing chest pain are more common in men, only 43 percent of women feel that when they’re having a heart attack. The most common symptoms in women are shortness of breath and fatigue…. non-specific and vague symptoms. So Dr. Weeks suggests really paying attention to your body and if you notice something different to pursue it with your doctor, and also to get that annual physical done and make sure your doctor checks your blood pressure, cholesterol and sugars.
Prevention is key with women and heart disease because once women are diagnosed they tend to do worse than men. After a heart attack women have higher rates of depression, their risk of readmission to hospital is greater and their compliance with cardiac rehabilitation is worse.
Dr. Weeks says women have a tendency to get diagnosed later than men but they often put themselves last when it comes to looking after themselves. Dr. Weeks encourages women to start protecting their heart health now to avoid heart disease later in life.
For more information on women and heart health visit this website.
So many Calgarians suffer from headaches. Many people think they have sinus headaches. But it’s more likely they’re suffering from a tension headache or a migraine.
I spoke with Dr. Brad Mechor, an Ear Nose and Throat Surgeon, who explains 90 percent of people who see a doctor for a sinus headache do in fact have a migraine. A sinus headache by definition occurs with a cold or sinus infection, also known as sinusitis. But it’s easy to confuse the two because these types of headaches do have similar symptoms…. the pain gets worse when you bend over, there’s often congestion and nasal discharge with both.
Dr. Mechor says what ends up happening is patients think they have a sinus headache and then start treating themselves with over the counter sinus medications. He says this is fine for 3-5 days but not longer. He says patients can start getting medication dependent headaches. Instead, Dr. Mechor says there are other ways to get relief:
– get proper sleep – to keep the immune system functioning well to fight off colds and infections
– make sure you don’t have arthritis in the upper neck
– see a dentist who has training in TMJ disorders
– and get acupuncture
Dr. Mechor refers 90 percent of his patients with sinus headaches for acupuncture.
And what about headaches and chinooks?? Dr. Mechor says a study done here in Calgary looked at 50 patients with chinook headaches and 50 without chinook headaches and found that those with the headaches actually had clearer sinuses. So those with the chinook headaches likely had migraines, not sinus headaches.
For more information about sinus headaches visit the Mayo Clinic’s website.
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