Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, March / April 2014
Winnipeg will soon be home to a major new centre for concussion research and treatment.
Premier Greg Selinger recently announced $1 million in funding for a new concussion program, which will be run by the Winnipeg Helath Region's Pan Am Clinic and be located on the second floor of the MTS Iceplex.
The program is headed by neurosurgeon Dr. Mike Ellis, the only brain specialist in North America whose career is dedicated to full-time concussion treatment and research. Ellis is also a concussion consultant to the Winnipeg Jets. He says research will have a significant effect on the way adolescents and adult patients are treated.
"I currently see 40 to 50 patients a week, including 10 to 20 new referrals," says Ellis, who trained in Toronto under Dr. Charles Tator, a world-renowned concussion expert. "Out of that, probably 70 to 80 per cent are due to sportsrelated injuries, and the others come about due to school yard accidents, motor vehicle accidents, and other blows to the head."
Research shows that concussions have long-term effects on children, says Ellis. "Yet we also know that only 20 per cent of children with concussions are brought to see doctors at places like Children's Hospital. There needs to be more awareness of the symptoms of concussion among young athletes and their coaches."
Ellis has assembled a multi-disciplinary team of clinicians, including exercise scientists, physiotherapists, sports doctors, neurosurgeons and a pediatric psychologist. "I'm only missing a sleep specialist at this point," he says, adding that the team works to diagnose balance and cognitive changes, develop a care plan, and monitor recovery to determine when it is safe for adolescents to return to learning and playing.
The concussion program will focus on three major streams of research. The first is measuring changes in the cerebral blood flow, using MRI technology. The second is developing an exercise science assessment tool, to help diagnose concussion and confirm recovery rate. The third focus is looking at the effects of concussion on academic performance, with the aim of setting up a "return to learn" program for students.
The University of Manitoba's Faculty of Medicine, Children's Hospital and Health Sciences Centre, the Manitoba Institute for Child Health and the True North Foundation will also play key roles in the program.