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Young hockey players unable to identify concussion symptoms: study

Twenty-five percent of minor league hockey players do not know if an athlete with symptoms of a concussion should continue to play hockey, according to a new study by St. Michael’s Hospital neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Cusimano calling for greater education to prevent long-term head injuries.

Toronto, May 28, 2009

Hockey Concussions (USAF Photographic Archives/David Armer)

Twenty-five percent of minor league hockey players do not know if an athlete with symptoms of a concussion should continue to play hockey, according to a new study by St. Michael’s Hospital neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Cusimano calling for greater education to prevent long-term head injuries.

The findings are part of a study by Dr. Cusimano that analyzed the concussion knowledge of 142 adults (coaches, trainers and parents) and 267 players from GTA Atom (10-years-old), Bantam (14-years-old), AA (highly competitive) and house league divisions. The study is published in the May edition of the Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences.

“Serious misconceptions exist among minor league hockey players, athletes, coaches and parents when it comes to understanding the signs and symptoms of a concussion and its treatment,” said Dr. Cusimano, a professor of neurosurgery, education and public health at the University of Toronto and vice-president of ThinkFirst Canada, a national injury prevention organization. “Most cannot identify the symptoms and are under the impression that concussions can be treated with physician-prescribed medication or physical therapy.” The study also showed that up to two thirds of players had the mistaken impression that a player must lose consciousness to have suffered a concussion.

Dr. Cusimano is also concerned that players may return to the ice before they have fully recovered from such a brain injury. “This is troublesome since repeated brain injuries can lead to long term effects in functions such as memory, behaviour, mood, social relations and school or work performance," said Dr. Cusimano. The key to preventing repeated injuries is to recognize the symptoms of concussion when they occur and know how to deal with their effects.

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