Ontario is a Global Leader in Concussion Research and Prevention

Concussions are a serious problem in Ontario. Between 2008 and 2016, more than a million Ontarians were diagnosed with this common form of traumatic brain injury. Children and youth make up 40 per cent of all concussion patients in the province (totalling roughly 60,000 doctor visits per year), with children under five the most likely to be affected.

The ubiquity of these injuries has put brain injury lawyers on notice. Research suggests that even mild traumatic brain injuries can have major long-term health impacts. This is especially true when they occur in children and youths: kids with brain injuries do less well in school, are more likely to receive disability benefits as adults, and are more likely to be hospitalized with psychiatric illnesses, according to the Guardian.

Ontario is a World Leader in Concussion Research and Prevention

Over the past several years, Ontario has established itself as a national and even global leader in concussion research and prevention. In 2018, the provincial government passed Rowan’s Law, legislation named in memory high school rugby player Rowan Stringer who died after suffering multiple concussions in quick succession. The law lays out regulations for youth sports leagues and educational institutions, and provides guidelines to help coaches and teachers recognize and prevent head injuries.

More recently, the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation published a new ‘living guideline’ to help reduce childhood and youth concussions. Aimed primarily at doctors but featuring sections for coaches and parents, the Living Guideline for Diagnosing and Managing Pediatric Concussion was created over three years by a group of more than 50 physicians, nurses, diagnosticians, and rehab specialists. The resource can be accessed online by users around the world.

“We want to harmonize the messages so it doesn’t matter where you are injured, people will be getting the same messages,” said Judy Gargaro, acquired brain injury program director at the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, to the Ottawa Citizen.

The foundation’s previous guideline, published in 2014, attracted users from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Australia, and New Zealand. What sets the new version apart is its dynamism – contributors will review new concussion research and make revisions and updates at least once a month. The recent surge in interest in concussions – from brain injury lawyers, the general population, and medical professionals alike – makes this a necessary feature.

“People are much more aware of concussion,” said Dr. Roger Zemek of the CHEO Research Institute to the Citizen. “My own work has shown that visits have increased four-fold in emergency rooms and family physicians offices over 10 years.”

As the healthcare industry has come to recognize the scope of the concussion problem, treatment best practices have evolved quickly. Until recently, for example, young people who suffered concussions were generally instructed to disconnect from screens, school, social activities, and sports until their symptoms cleared up. The new guideline recommends 24 to 48 hours of rest followed by a gradual reintroduction of physical activities.

“We need to consider that locking people away from their lives and all the things that make them smile may be causing some secondary harm,” said Dr. Nick Reed, an associate professor at the University of Toronto and one of the co-project leads, to the Globe and Mail.

How Can a Brain Injury Lawyer Help?

In a perfect world, Ontario’s aggressive approach to tackling concussions will reduce their prevalence and act as a blueprint for the rest of Canada. For now, though, concussions remain a major concern for brain injury lawyers, particularly as they relate to young people. If your child has suffered a brain injury in an accident, a brain injury lawyer may be able to help your family access compensation for the damages you have suffered. Not every accident causing a concussion will be grounds to launch a personal injury claim – reach out today to discuss your options.

Contact Will Davidson LLP

If you or a member of your family has been injured in an accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team of experienced brain injury lawyers has represented seriously injured accident victims for decades. We will happily review the specifics of your case to determine whether a personal injury claim makes sense.

Will Davidson LLP provides legal services on a contingency basis, which means you will never be asked to pay fees until your claim has been successfully resolved. In other words, rather than charging hourly fees, our team will accept a percentage of your final settlement as payment – if you do not receive a settlement, we do not get paid.

Contingency fees, along with free consultations, are part of our commitment to access to justice for all Ontarians. During our decades in practice, we have come to understand that serious personal injuries present numerous complex challenges. A long-term recovery effort takes more than a physical toll; it may also affect your mental health, family dynamics, and personal finances. Contact us today to learn more.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jonathon Fowler

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month in Canada

Brain Injury Awareness Month, which occurs every June in Canada, is an important event for the country’s brain injury lawyers, safety activists, and public health and safety officials. It is an opportunity to draw attention to the prevalence of brain injuries in Canada and to the serious health challenges they cause.

More than 20,000 people per year are hospitalized with traumatic brain injuries and concussions in Canada. In 2016-17 alone, hospital emergency departments diagnosed around 46,000 concussions in children and youth. Yet, despite these lofty numbers, most brain injuries are preventable. During Brain Injury Awareness Month, stakeholders aim to educate Canadians on how to avoid brain injuries in themselves and others. In 2015, for example, then-Health Minister Rona Ambrose advised Canadians to take these precautionary measures in a release:

  • Operate motor vehicles safely and without the distraction of mobile devices
  • Wear proper headgear for sports like hockey, football and biking
  • Take action to prevent falls among older adult in their homes and communities
  • Ensure playing areas are clear of hazards, and
  • Follow proper safety procedures when taking part in organized sports and other activities.

Another important aspect of Brain Injury Awareness Month is supporting organizations that research brain injuries and provide services to survivors. Some of these organizations include:

  • Parachute Canada, an organization which works to reduce preventable injuries and collaborated with the federal government on the Canadian Guideline on Concussion in Sport
  • The Ontario Brain Injury Association (OBIA), which provides and disseminates information and educational tools relating to all aspects of acquired brain injury
  • The Brain Injury Society of Toronto (BIST), a non-profit organization supporting acquired brain injury survivors in Canada’s largest city, and
  • The Canadian Traumatic Brain Injury Research Consortium, which receives funding through the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and recently embarked on a project to identify biomarkers to improve assessment of concussions in children.

As Ontario’s brain injury lawyers know, a serious brain injury can occur to anyone at any time. Traumatic brain injuries are often addressed in personal injury lawsuits involving car accidents, slip-and-falls, cycling accidents, boating accidents, and more.

If you or a member of your family have experienced a head injury as a result of an accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to learn how our experienced team of brain injury lawyers can help. Our group will provide the advice, guidance, and representation you need to secure compensation to fund your recovery.

Image credit: University of the Fraser Valley

What is being done to address the pervasiveness of concussion in sport?

It’s no secret that concussions are pervasive in contact sports like football and hockey, but new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests the problem may be even more widespread than previously feared.

The study, which has caused alarm among brain injury lawyers, was conducted by researchers at Boston University. It discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head, in 99 per cent of dead NFL players’ brains. Symptoms of the disorder include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment and impulse control, aggression, anxiety, depression, and in some cases suicidal behaviour.

Critically, the study’s authors emphasized that football players are not the only group at risk of developing CTE.

“There’s no question that there’s a problem in football. That people who play football are at risk for this disease,” Dr. Ann McKee, director of Boston University’s CTE Center and one of the study’s co-authors told CNN. “We urgently need to find answers for not just football players, but veterans and other individuals exposed to head trauma.”

Concussion prevention in Canada

Stakeholders across Canada – including concerned brain injury lawyers – are continually discussing methods of limiting concussions in young athletes. Parents in British Columbia, for instance, are debating a campaign to ban bodychecking in bantam hockey (ages 13-14), according to the CBC.

Researchers for the University of Calgary estimated that 86 per cent of minor hockey injuries, including concussions, are caused by bodychecking, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended raising the age of bodychecking explicitly to avoid concussions in younger players.

Public education

While preventative measures like raising the bodychecking age could marginally reduce concussion risk, organizations like Parachute Canada, a national charity dedicated to preventing injuries, are taking a broader approach. On July 28, 2017, the group released Canada-wide guidelines targeted to physicians, parents, coaches, teachers, and athletes to help diagnose, manage, and treat concussions. Like the proposed body-checking ban, keeping kids safe is a key aim.

The new Canadian Guidelines on Concussion in Sport, which you can find right here, includes an accessible definition of the injury; addresses common misconceptions around concussions; provides advice on what to do when a concussion occurs; and warns that wearing protective equipment is not a failsafe preventive measure. The guide was written to apply to all levels of athletes across the country.

“What we wanted was for the recommendations to be the same for a child playing Timbit hockey in Newfoundland to a national team soccer player in Vancouver,” Dr. Michael Ellis, co-chair of Parachute Canada’s advisory committee, told the Globe and Mail. “In this way, all Canadian sports stakeholders are on the same page about what their specific roles and responsibilities are in keeping our nation’s athletes safe.”

Contact the brain injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP

If you have suffered a concussion or other serious head injury while participating in an organized sport, you should contact an injury lawyer right away to assess your legal situation. At Will Davidson LLP, our team of experienced brain injury lawyers can offer guidance and advice on how best to pursue compensation for the damages you have incurred.

Ontario researchers close in on groundbreaking concussion test

Concussions are perhaps the most common form of brain injury: they can occur at any time and to anyone, from high-level athletes to retirees walking from their car to their front door. While a single concussion is unlikely to cause lasting damage, these injuries become more dangerous as they reoccur. Unfortunately, because concussions are notoriously difficult to diagnose, victims often do not realize they are vulnerable and leave themselves susceptible to additional injuries. The effects of multiple concussions are life-changing; brain injury lawyers can help victims access compensation.

Concussions are most commonly seen in contact sports like hockey and football; athletes suffer a blow to the head, shake it off, and get back into the action because no fast and simple diagnostic test exists.

However, a team of researchers in London, Ontario is aiming to change this. They have developed a blood test that they say can determine whether an individual has suffered a concussion with between 90 and 95 per cent accuracy, easily surpassing the medical community’s generally accepted 70 per cent threshold.

The development has generated excitement among researchers, athletes, and brain injury lawyers.

“For the last 10 years or so it’s kind of been the Holy Grail in traumatic brain injury research,” said Dr. Douglas Fraser, the project’s lead researcher and a physician in the London Health Sciences Centre’s Pediatric Critical Care Unit, to the CBC.

Today, doctors generally rely on two tools to diagnose concussions: medical imaging, which often produces inconclusive results; and physical testing to assess the presence of a variety of observable physiological symptoms. Blood tests have also been used, but generally focus on one or two molecules at a time. Dr. Fraser’s test ‘focuses on the levels of metabolites in the blood, a waste product generated by the body that acts as a set of chemical fingerprints,’ the CBC reported in November.

“By measuring all of these things it gives you a very good idea of what’s going on in the body at any given time, including an injury,” Fraser said. “We were very pleasantly surprised to find out that the pattern of change for 174 metabolites was really quite dramatic with an injury. It got to be quite easy to separate who had had an injury and who had not based on those patterns.”

The researchers’ concussions blood test remains in its infancy, and today can only be performed in the confines of a high-tech laboratory. However, the team believes it could soon require much more accessible equipment and be performed for as little as $40. Brain injury lawyers believe this accessibility could help reduce concussion’s troubling prominence.

“This is something with today’s technology would be the size of a toaster and could sit on a bench somewhere,” Fraser explained. “This is something that could be in an emergency room, in an athletic locker, it could be on the front lines of a military conflict.”

Until such time as Dr. Fraser’s test becomes more widely available, the brain injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP urge head injury victims to remember the risks of incurring multiple concussions. If you’ve received a blow to the head and are unsure whether you’ve suffered a concussion, err on the side of caution and avoid risky behaviour. Contact Will Davidson LLP today for more information.

Photo credit: shgmom56/Flickr

Do concussions impair your driving ability?

Concussions are an enigmatic injury. They are difficult to diagnose, despite being quite common, and can produce an array of symptoms or, in some cases, lack of symptoms. And while a standalone concussion is unlikely to cause lasting harm, multiple concussions over a short or long period of time can cause serious health issues and, in rare cases death. If a head injury is causing you lasting discomfort or impairment, consider researching some local brain injury lawyers to get a better grasp of your legal standing.

Today, the bulk of concussion research is focused on two subjects: diagnostics, and long-term impact and recovery for athletes. The injury has risen to prominence amid a series of high-profile class action lawsuits initiated by the brain injury lawyers of former professional football and hockey players. Last year, a settlement that could be worth $1-billion was finalized between the National Football League and former players; a class-action lawsuit against the National Hockey League could be heard in court in 2017. Both cases hinge on expanding research linking frequent blows to the head with a variety of degenerative brain diseases.

Most concussion sufferers do not experience life-long brain issues, but the impacts on day-to-day life can still be substantial. A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Georgia and published in the Journal of Neurotrauma found that concussed individuals at times displayed the same ability to operate a motor vehicle as someone under the influence of alcohol.

“We have very fine-tuned recommendations for when a concussed individual is ready to return to sport and the classroom,” said study author Julianna Schmidt. “But we don’t even mention driving in our recommendations. And only 50 per cent of people intend to restrict their driving at any point following a concussion which means that by the time they are feeling better, they are almost certainly on the road.”

The study placed participants in a driving simulator within two days of a head injury, and compared their results with performance after an appropriate recovery time. Significantly, it found that driving performance was hindered even after some participants’ symptoms had dissipated.

“This is a pretty large indicator of motor vehicle accident risk, and this is at a time point when they are considered recovered,” Schmidt added.

The University of Georgia study places an important emphasis on the impact of concussions on average people, the type represented by local brain injury lawyers. Focusing concussion research on high-performing athletes does little to indicate the impact the injury may have on day-to-day life for the majority of the population.

If you have suffered a head injury and are experiencing prolonged negative side effects, contact the brain injury lawyers at Will Davidson LLP today. Our team has a wealth of experience helping injury victims access the compensation to which they may be entitled, in order to set them on a path towards a successful recovery.

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