Written By: William Harding and Christina El-Azzi, Summer Student
Study from the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation
A concussion is a brain injury that results from a blow to the head or body which causes the brain to hit the walls of the skull, resulting in bruising or swelling. Though many concussions heal quickly, they have the potential to have lasting effects and can sometimes result in death.
A recent study by Toronto’s University Health Network suggests that concussion rates in Ontario are almost twice as high as previously recorded. They state that approximately 150,000 concussions get diagnosed in Ontario annually, with children under 5, women over 65 and populations in rural communities being the most susceptible.
Are We Dealing With a Concussion Epidemic?
Though the dramatic increase in the rate of reported concussions appears to be alarming, the team at Toronto’s University Health Network believes the dramatic spike is influenced by increased public awareness surrounding brain injuries rather than an increase in the actual number of concussions.
Public education surrounding concussions has ramped up in recent years. This is likely due, in part, to the highly publicized death of Rowan Stringer. Rowan was a 17-year-old Ottawa girl who died after sustaining multiple concussions while playing high school rugby. Rowan’s Law, legislation which establishes safety protocols for young athletes suspected of having a concussion, was born out of this tragic incident. The NFL concussion class action also played a role in publicly highlighting the serious risks associated with repetitive brain injuries.
The limited scope of previous studies done in Ontario with regards to concussion rates may have also contributed to the skewed statistics. Previously, studies only considered smaller jurisdictions, single causes of injury, or they focused on specific pockets of the population. By using a larger research sample (records were pulled from a province-wide health data repository), the research team at Toronto’s University Health Network was able to offer a much more comprehensive look at concussion rates in the province.
The importance of public awareness and education surrounding concussions persists because concussions are invisible injuries, unseen by the naked eye or on many forms of diagnostic imaging. They can easily be downplayed by the patient or misdiagnosed by the treating physician.
Concussions range in severity from mild to debilitating. If left untreated, symptoms such as headaches, mental fog, and fatigue can persist for years.
The more information we have about concussions, the better equipped we are to prevent and efficiently treat them. Keep the following in mind:
- The best way to prevent a head injury is to protect the head. Always wear a properly fitted helmet that is appropriate for the activity you are participating in.
- Always ensure that you and your fellow passengers are wearing seatbelts when in a vehicle.
- Know the signs and symptoms of concussion which includedizziness, headaches, nausea, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, lack of concentration, problems with balance, and trouble speaking. Note: You do not always lose consciousness when you sustain a concussion.
- Remove yourself from the situation immediately if you suspect that you have been injured.
- Do not take a chance! If you are having any symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention.
- Do not return until all symptoms have dissipated and you have been medically cleared. The risks associated with concussions are exacerbated if multiple concussions are suffered, especially if they happen within a short period of time!
 Langer, Laura & Levy, Charissa & Bayley, Mark. (2019). Increasing Incidence of Concussion: True Epidemic or Better Recognition? Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation.