Owning the podium of sport concussion research
Benson Concussion Institute at the Canadian Sport Institute in Calgary
In 2012, Own The Podium (OTP) announced that they were funding a new series of research projects to improve concussion identification and treatment among Canada’s elite athletes. Sport concussion was a rising issue in contact sports that was not well understood, keeping players out of the game longer and leading to long-term cognitive impairment. Dr. Brian Benson, a sport and exercise medicine physician and clinician scientist, is leading one of the projects being funded by OTP. He founded the Benson Concussion Institute (BCI) – a division of WinSport Medicine Clinic at the Canadian Sport Institute in Calgary – in order to investigate study methods of sport concussion assessment, management, and prevention.
At BCI, Dr. Benson is using the Kinarm to objectively analyze post-concussion brain dysfunction. With the Adjustable Height Configuration of the Kinarm End-Point Lab, he is able to observe the athlete’s upper limb voluntary control and its integration with whole body postural control. This data provides valuable insights into the athlete’s sensorimotor recovery, enabling medical experts to make informed decisions about the athlete’s return to sport, optimal sport performance, and strategies for prevention. Dr. Benson says that for concussed athletes “timely access to the best possible clinical care is critical to ensure an optimal recovery and safe return to play”.
Dr. Benson’s initial research showed declines in athlete performance in the Kinarm following concussion, specifically in movement speed and reaction time, and improvement in performance throughout the recovery period (Benson et al, 2012). Interestingly, when his studies were expanded to larger sample groups, the post-concussion athletes showed only marginal deficits in sensorimotor and cognitive function (Mang et al, 2018). These results demonstrate the need for more extensive research into the effects of concussions and highlight the potential for objective measures such as the Kinarm to lead to significant advances in the field. Dr. Benson’s ultimate goal is that by quantifying brain damage he will be able to reduce the chances that an athlete returns to play too early.
Learn more about Dr. Benson’s research:
The Hidden Issue in Intimate Partner Violence
University of British Columbia Okanagan
Dr. Paul van Donkelaar is the Associate Vice-Principal of Research and a faculty member in the school of Health and Exercise Sciences at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan Campus, and has been using the Kinarm for many years to do basic research in postural control. He has also spent over a decade investigating the neurological effects of minor traumatic brain injury (a.k.a. concussion) in contact sport athletes. Now, he is combining his experience using Kinarm Labs with his understanding of traumatic brain injury as part of his latest research project, called SOAR (Supporting Survivors of Abuse and Brain Injury through Research). The research examines the intersection of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and intimate partner violence (IPV), and is being conducted in partnership with Kelowna Women’s Shelter.
In a podcast episode of “I love Kelowna”, Dr. van Donkelaar discusses how his research thus far has revealed many of the challenges of studying TBI in IPV victims: the trauma is often unwitnessed, unreported, and chronic, and the TBI symptoms are complicated by the plurality of other emotional and physical effects accompanying IPV. Thus, he relies on sophisticated and objective measurement tools such as the Kinarm for assessing these unique TBI victims.
Dr. van Donkelaar is in the process of publishing a paper that compares the symptoms and impairments experienced by IPV victims to those of athletes with chronic concussions. It is hoped that the knowledge acquired from his research can be translated into tools and resources that can be used at women’s shelters across the country.
Learn more about Dr. van Donkelaar’s research: