March 12, 2020

UCalgary leads in formation of Canadian Concussion Network

National network established to get cutting edge research on concussion to Canadians, faster
UCalgary will lead a network to get cutting edge research on concussion to Canadians, faster. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

The University of Calgary, in association with a nationwide group of partners, has been awarded a $1.5 million, five-year CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research) Network Catalyst Grant to establish the Canadian Concussion Network (CNN). A key goal of the CCN will be to establish a co-ordinated national research agenda to get research into practice, faster. The network will promote data sharing and the implementation of protocols so that data can be more easily combined across various studies.

“We know that within the current system there’s often a 10- to 15-year gap between our research discoveries and the time it takes to get this knowledge adopted into clinical practice,” says Dr. Keith Yeates, PhD, neuropsychologist and head of the University of Calgary’s Department of Psychology and the Integrated Concussion Research Program (ICRP).

“By combining our data across studies and making it available to a broad range of researchers and stakeholders, we believe we can make a faster and greater impact in the real world. For example, if we have a new diagnostic tool that shows promise, the network would help us roll that out much more quickly.”


Keith Yeates, neuropsychologist and head of the ICRP will govern the network.

Courtesy Integrated Concussion Research Program

This network will bring together Canadian concussion researchers, clinicians and stakeholders from multiple fields – including sports, health, education and industry – to shape best practices and policies in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of concussion, with a particular focus on youth and sport. The establishment of the CNN is supported by the Federal-Provincial-Territorial (FTP) Work Group on Concussions in Sport, Sport Canada, and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

“Canada boasts tremendous strengths in concussion research, and the creation of the Canadian Concussion Network will further enhance our collective capacity to improve prevention, treatment and outcomes for concussion,” says Dr. Samuel Weiss, Scientific Director at the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction (INMHA). “We are proud to support opportunities for talented researchers to join forces and influence real change for the benefit of all Canadians.”

The Canadian Concussion Network includes concussion researchers and collaborators from seven provinces, currently, including Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Prince Edward Island. Yeates, a member of the Owerko Centre part of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the Cumming School of Medicine, is the principal investigator on the grant and chair of the executive committee, which will govern the network. Dr. Carolyn Emery, PT, PhD, and chair of the Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre, and Dr. Kathryn Schneider, PT, PhD, both from the Faculty of Kinesiology, are also members of the executive committee.

Concussion researchers Carolyn Emery, left, and Kathryn Schneider are on the executive committee.

Stacy McGuire, Faculty of Kinesiology

“We’ve come to realize that Canada really punches above its weight relative to the rest of the world in terms of concussion research,” says Yeates. “And we’ve made positive steps towards translating that research into actual clinical practices and policies. But it’s also been the case that a lot of the work happens in silos.”

The CCN will also strive to bring about better-co-ordinated clinical trials. “If we want to launch a clinical trial on a new treatment, the network will allow us to quickly bring teams together to design trials much bigger and more effective than what would be possible from a single institution,” says Yeates.

“Even though I’m an expert on concussion, I’m often surprised to learn about other initiatives happening elsewhere in the country that I didn’t know about.... We have a lot of sectors involved with concussion now and it hasn’t always been the case that we’re all working from a common playbook. We feel we may be able to reduce redundancies with more co-ordination. This network has been formed to try to get all parties pulling in the same direction.”

The network will provide researchers with a direct pipeline to schools, sports organizations, the health-care system, and various commercial industries, so  their work can be best tailored to meet the needs of these key stakeholders. 

An estimated 250,000 Canadians sustain a concussion each year, most during sports and rec activities

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Each year an estimated 250,000 Canadians sustain a concussion. Children and adolescents account for 50 per cent of concussions, mostly occurring during sports and recreational activities. Approximately 15 to 30 per cent of children and youth with concussions report persistent post-concussive symptoms which, in rare instances, may have lifelong consequences.

“There’s a collective sense that this is the right time to form a national network,” says Yeates. “We’ve seen the advantages of combining data and getting key players together on a national level. We believe we’ll have great success with the Canadian Concussion Network.”

Led by the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Brain and Mental Health is one of six research strategies guiding the University of Calgary toward its Eyes High goals. The strategy provides a unifying direction for brain and mental health research at the university and positions researchers to unlock new discoveries and treatments for brain health in our community. 

The Integrated Concussion Research Program (ICRP) is a university-wide initiative to study concussion, bringing together experts from the Cumming School of Medicine, Faculty of Kinesiology, and Faculty of Arts, with support from the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI) and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI). Community donations through the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation funded the creation of the ICRP and provide continuing support.