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Brain Injuries: Collaborative research may improve outcomes

The Alzheimer Society says over 564,000 people in Ontario and other provinces and territories in Canada have dementia. Reportedly, Alzheimer's is one of over 1,000 diseases, injuries and disorders that affect the brain. Canadians are said to be leaders among the world's top researchers. They are seeking more information to help them to understand all the intricate workings of the brain as well as the potential disorders and brain injuries that affect it.

Their work includes the quest to develop practical but innovative tools to bring about early diagnosis of injuries or disorders along with better treatments and, ultimately, cures. Brain research has moved on from being focused on neuroscience. Chemistry, computer science, physics, engineering and ethics now all form part of the research. To include all these fields, collaboration across all the areas is crucial, and researchers broaden their horizons by exchanging techniques, hypotheses and methods.

Brain injuries suffered 35 years ago still cause hardship

Concussions are a potentially severe health problem. This issue has persisted for decades because even with all the medical and scientific advances, the fact that concussions are brain injuries that could have long-term consequences is often ignored. This misconception has not changed much over the past 30-odd years. The wife of an Ontario man who suffered an undiagnosed brain injury in 1983 explained the family's suffering since then.

She says he was a 30-year-old mechanic back then. He was test driving a small bulldozer when something went wrong. He was thrown forward violently, causing his head to smash into the cross beam. However, the fact that the only sign of an injury was a minor laceration on his forehead misled doctors, who advised him to take the next day off work and take painkillers. Those were the days before concussion awareness.

Brain injuries: Damage still evident 3 months after concussion

Although youth hockey leagues have established measures to prevent hockey players from returning to the ice too soon after concussions, ongoing research into sports-related brain injuries indicates that existing protocols may not provide enough protection. Doctors at Western University in Ontario say they studied detailed images of the brains of 15-year-old hockey players who had suffered concussions. What they found showed that players were cleared to play while they were still experiencing aftereffects of the brain injuries.

One of the researchers says the average time the examined players were kept off the ice after their concussions was 23 days. However, the scans that were done after three months still showed damage to the white matter that form links between the different sections of the brain. By this time, the players no longer exhibited outward symptoms of brain injuries.

Study reveals many baseline tests for brain injuries are invalid

There is no lack of concern and effort to protect young athletes in Ontario and elsewhere from suffering head trauma during participation in sports activities. Various studies are carried out to find the best ways to prevent brain injuries. Although baseline testing has become a trusted method to prevent athletes from returning too soon after concussions, the results of a recent University of Windsor study indicate that more than half of baseline tests are invalid.

Baseline tests are done to assess the normal cognitive abilities of young athletes at the beginning of the season. Anyone who suffers a concussion will be allowed recovery time, and before allowing his or her return to the sports field, a comparative test will be done. If the test shows recovery of normal cognitive abilities, the athlete is deemed fit to return.

New law aims to prevent brain injuries among Ontario athletes

Pending Royal Assent, schools and coaches will soon have to comply with a new Ontario law that aims to protect athletes from suffering concussions. Rowan's Law will change the safety culture around concussions, which are often not recognized as brain injuries. The law arose from the 2013 death of the 17-year-old rugby player, Rowan Stringer, who suffered a fatal head injury after several prior concussions.

The goal is to provide training and education to coaches, parents, athletes and other authorities to bring about a better understanding of the dangers posed by concussions. Once the new bill becomes an act of parliament, safety precautions designed to prevent head trauma will be mandatory. Codes of conduct will be established that will ensure that any athlete whose injury is deemed a concussion will receive the necessary recovery time to make sure he or she is healed before returning to the sports field.

Concern over brain injuries due to repeated concussions

Studies to determine the damage done by head injuries suffered by athletes have mostly been conducted after their deaths. Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario changed that. They studied retired football players for the effects of brain injuries caused by repeated concussions. Their findings followed a significant range of tests and sophisticated scanning of the brains of the subjects.

One researcher labelled the results as shocking. Reportedly, the brains of ex-football players looked like those of people in their 80s even though they were only in their 40s. Furthermore, the mass of the area of the brain that contains billions of nerve cell bodies in the former players proved to be 20 per cent less than in the average individual. The researchers also reported that the results were similar to those typically found during tests of coma patients.

Brain injuries: Do you know the symptoms of a concussion?

Not all Ontario parents know that a concussion is serious and should not be disregarded. Concussions are mild traumatic brain injuries, but the fact that they are mild does not make them less dangerous. Repeated concussions can cause long-term consequences. Children can suffer these injuries on the playgrounds or sports fields, and although they may have cuts, contusions or bruises, no obvious injuries may be present.

Symptoms for which parents can keep a lookout include confusion and difficulty to remember what happened to cause the injury or the moments immediately after the injury -- or any signs of amnesia. The child may repeat the same question, and complain of feeling dizzy, unbalanced, unsteady or light-headed. It is also important to find out whether the child lost consciousness, even for a moment. Blurred vision, double vision or ringing in his or her ears can also be an indication of a concussion.

Brain injuries can be challenging for victims and loved ones

There is no organ in the body of any human that is as powerful and complex as the brain. A healthy brain is necessary to think, breathe, interact, move and make decisions throughout every person's daily life. Brain injuries can happen in the blink of an eye -- often causing significant changes to the lives of victims. Reportedly, an estimated half a million traumatic brain injury victims live in Canada, including Ontario.

All age groups can suffer TBI, but authorities say those who are very young or very old are most vulnerable. In many cases, TBI effects are invisible, and people tend to misunderstand the impact it can have on a victim. Examples are individuals who talk and walk normally but have memory problems or difficulty with organizing their thoughts. Others may struggle with controlling impulses and may tend to suffer mood swings or become argumentative.

Brain injuries: Tow truck strikes Hamilton senior in crosswalk

Drivers in Ontario must stop at any crosswalk and wait for pedestrians to complete the crossing and exit the crosswalk before they proceed. While this law is intended to protect pedestrians, accidents that cause traumatic injuries to pedestrians continue to occur. In many cases, these crashes lead to life-changing brain injuries for the victims.

A 72-year-old woman suffered serious head injuries on a recent Tuesday morning. Hamilton authorities report the incident happened at about 10:30 a.m. in Dundas. An accident report indicates that the senior was struck by a tow truck that turned onto the street where she was crossing.

Legal options regarding brain injuries on construction sites

Construction workers in Ontario and elsewhere are exposed to numerous safety hazards, with fall accidents among the most prevalent. For that reason, it is vital for employers in this industry to comply with the safety regulations of both the Ministry of Labour and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Falls can have catastrophic consequences, including brain injuries and even death.

Following a Dec. 2015 fall in Ontario, a roofing company was recently convicted and fined $55,000 after a guilty plea in a Mississauga court. Reportedly, the case arose after a roof worker fell about 27 feet to a lower level. Court documents indicated that workers failed to cover or guard an opening in the roof where they had removed a skylight.

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