Canada, the country known for its hard-hitting hockey players, this week announced a national concussion strategy, which officials say will help protect the nation’s athletes from sports-related concussions.

“The purpose of this is to provide a standardized approach to concussion recognition, assessment and management, so a high-performance athlete will receive the same level of care across the country,” said Dr. Brian Benson, chief medical officer and director of sport medicine at the Canadian Sport Institute Calgary and Benson Concussion Institute. 

The program aims to ensure continuity of concussion protocol across the country. The guidelines suggest all high-risk athletes complete clinical assessments under a physician’s supervision during the pre-season and before training camp to establish a baseline.

“A concussion is such a diffuse injury, there’s many things that it controls. It’s the command center of the human body, so getting to know an athlete in their healthy, baseline state is critical to be able to detect impairment post injury and really target individualized treatment strategies,” Benson told News Calgary. “There may be many overlapping features that can produce concussion-like symptoms including neck injuries, vision or gaze problems, sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, migraine headaches or ADHD. If you know that athlete very well, in that baseline, healthy state, if they do sustain a concussive injury during the year, we’ll be able to know that athlete, try to really tease out what’s neurologic impairment and what’s not.” 

The plan covers criteria for concussion management and specifies conditions that must be met before an athletic can return to play.

Up-to-date sport concussion policy and protocols must be in place for the following high-risk sports:

  • Olympic winter sports: Alpine Skiing, Freestyle Skiing, Ski Jumping, Snowboard, Speed Skating – Short and Long Track, Figure Skating, Ice Hockey, Bobsleigh, Skeleton, Luge.
  • Olympic summer sports: Boxing, Wrestling, Football (Soccer), Rugby, Basketball, Cycling(track, road, BMX, mountain), Equestrian, Field Hockey, Gymnastics, Trampoline, Handball, Judo, Synchronized Swimming, Taekwondo, Volleyball, Water Polo, Diving, Athletics –Pole Vault
  • Paralympic winter sports: Para-Alpine, Para-Snowboard, Sledge Hockey.
  • Paralympic summer sports: Para-Cycling, Para-Equestrian, Judo, Sitting Volleyball, Soccer 7-A-Side, Wheelchair Basketball, Wheelchair Rugby, Goalball, Wheelchair Athletics.
  • Effective immediately, the guidelines will be recognized before and at Olympic and Paralympic Games, Pan American and Parapan American Games.
  • Officials say the guidelines will need to be reviewed on a regular basis.

Andy Berg is Executive Editor of Athletic Business.