WATCH: UBCO student wins $150,000 scholarship for concussion research

KELOWNA, B.C. — Medical student Sandy Wright has been awarded the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship for his research into concussions. The scholarship provides $150,000 in funding over three years. Wright has been working with a team of professors and a sport medicine physician to improve the understanding of concussions and the ability to diagnose them.

He says the study is unique because it looks at what actually happens to an athlete’s brain when they experience an impact to the head.

“We’re looking at relationships between head impact biomechanics, control of blood flow to the brain, and some aspects of brain function. What I mean by head impact biomechanics is actually measuring how frequently and how severely athletes hit their heads when playing sports,” says Wright.

He says the testing takes approximately one hour and involves a series of baseline tests. First, a cognitive test measures and evaluates the athlete’s current brain function and then they are assessed on numerous characteristics of blood flow control to the brain.

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Wright says understanding concussions better could lead to policy and game rule changes, and even equipment alterations to make sports safer. The research results could also help better determine when it is safe to return to play after a head injury.

Dekker Mende, a skating and skills coach with AK Hockey was playing on the Okanagan College team when he suffered two concussions.

“They weren’t super serious. They were like grade-two concussions. But for me the big issue I had was the post-concussion syndrome. So for one, I wasn’t able to do anything for four months and with the other, I was out for like six months,” says Mende.

Mende says he welcomes Wright’s research and says it’s good especially for younger athletes who could get an injury that could affect them later in life.

Wright says his overall goal is to help reduce the impact of head injuries for athletes at all levels.

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