New concussion screening tool for young athletes developed in Richmond

Fourteen-year-old Richmond student Blake Charlesworth lives and breathes soccer. He hopes to become a professional player and one day play in goal for FC Barcelona, his favourite club.

He knows that to make his dream a reality he’s going to have to watch the knocks to the head. Although doctors don’t know the long-term effects of multiple concussions on young brains, they do know that by continuing to play without a full recovery could lead to more. And experts fear that could disrupt cognitive development.

As a goalie for Richmond Football Club, Charlesworth has hit his head a few times on the goal post, but he isn’t aware of ever having a concussion. That’s why he was keen to take part in testing first-of-its-kind concussion screening technology for young athletes, developed at the University of B.C.

About 20 young soccer players from Richmond FC volunteered to undergo ectroencephalogram (EEG) scanning at Brighouse Park in Richmond on Saturday. They also sat down after the screening with a doctor for a neuropsychological evaluation for concussion diagnosis.

Vancouver-based EEGlewave uses a computer algorithm that can distinguish between the EEG of a healthy brain and that of a concussed brain.

“My parents said this would be really good for me, so in case I ever do get a concussion I would have something to go on,” said Charlesworth, as analysts measured his head for the brain scanner device.

The company’s plan is to create a product using data from young players as a baseline to help sports physicians diagnose concussion quickly and more accurately.

Using his data as a baseline, doctors and analysts at EEGlewave can later monitor Charlesworth’s brain should he get a knock to the head and determine whether he has a concussion by comparing the new EEG with that of his previously recorded healthy EEG.

Youth players found to have a concussion, however mild, can then take the necessary time off from their the sport to recover instead of continuing and possibly exacerbating the problem.

Charlesworth said he has loved soccer ever since he was five years old, and wants to make sure he stays healthy to play.

“My dad is a big soccer fan, my mum loves soccer too. It is a real family tradition. I’m the only one to want to go far with it so it’s a very big part of my life. I sleep, breathe and eat it.”

Like many young players, Charlesworth isn’t 100-per-cent sure he has never had a concussion. Rein Webber, chair of Richmond FC, said it is very common for coaches and the players to believe everything is OK after a hit to the head and continue playing.

“This is a whole new level of keeping our kids safe,” Webber said about the new brain scanning tool. “We can’t avoid injury but we can help the recovery. And we want to be there to support the players and their families as they go through the recovery process.”

Dr. Naznin Virji-Babul, who co-founded EEGlewave in 2015, said the brains of kids and adolescents don’t stop developing until about their mid-20s.  With this new tool, she said they can study how a concussion affects a developing brain and how to help kids recover.

EEGlewave has already collected baseline data from some Vancouver Whitecaps players, as well as youth in the Seafair Minor Hockey Association in Richmond.

“After the kids have a concussion, we repeat the testing. What we have found is that using our technology we are about 95 per cent accurate in being able to tell that someone has had a change in their brain as a result of the concussion,” said Virji-Babul, an assistant professor at UBC’s department of physical therapy who studies concussions.

If kids keep playing through a concussion, Virji-Babul said there is around a 30-per-cent chance of that child getting another.

“Their brains are still undergoing a lot of change, and we know the major changes are happening in their frontal cortex,” she said. “That’s the part of the brain that controls memory and attention. And it also controls risk-taking behaviour. So these are really important cognitive skills that are being developed.”

A 2013 report by Child Health B.C. found that during a one-year period there were 6,675 concussion-related emergency department visits by children and youth in the Lower Mainland.

 

Tiffany Crawford (Vancouver Sun) Published: September 17, 2016Updated: September 17, 2016 11:24 PMFiled Under:The Province Health Family & ChildShareNew Concussion Screening Tool for Young Athletes Developed in Rich. “New Concussion Screening Tool for Young Athletes Developed in Richmond.”Www.theprovince.com. Province, 17 Sept. 2016. Web. 19 Sept. 2016.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *