McGill University Health Centre developing new assessments to test for concussions in hockey

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Researchers from the McGill University Health Centre have developed a safe, reliable in-skate balance test for hockey players to determine if they have a concussion.

MUHC has made the first attempt at developing a balancing test that could be used to determine if a hockey player has an concussion. The test consist of three steps which last about two minutes.

The stable stance requires a participant to stand with each skate side by side and separated by 4 cm, which is applicable to every stance.

Secondly, the toe-point stance requires a participant to be standing in a stable position and then pointing the toes of the dominant foot to the floor.

Lastly, the T-shaped stance requires the dominant skate to be positioned at the right angle and mid-position to the non-dominant skate, forming the letter T.

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The idea behind this testing is that hockey players don’t have the luxury of being able to do stance testing without removing their equipment. This testing allows them to be assessed quickly and efficiently.

“We wanted to do something that would be faster for hockey athletes to assess their concussion balance,” said Dr. J. Scott Delaney, team physician.

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The testing is done one day at rest and another day after practice, when players are physically more tired. This is to determine if their scores will match up when a player is being tested for concussion.

“So if I’m going to test you for a concussion, I need to know that the difference I’m going to test you for [isn’t because] you are tired, but it’s because you have a concussion” said Delaney.
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The head coach of the McGill’s women’s hockey has been supportive of the new testing processes, which he calls a game-changer

“I think it’s a step forward because I think that it provides efficiency and reliability and those are two important factors in determining whether a player has a concussion,” stated Peter Smith.

READ MORE: New concussion guidelines for children could change practices around the world

McGill’s hockey teams are heavily invovled in the testing process and they have started to use it this season. The players say they are loving it.

“After going through the testing, our entire team, we were just so excited about it,” said Kelyane Lecours, a McGill hockey forward.

“We had never heard of it before; we were just happy that something like that would come and progress for concussion.”

Lecours, who has suffered three concussions as a player, is impressed with the speed it takes to do the test.

“Especially for us in hockey, not having to take our entire equipment off makes all the difference because the test lasts for two minutes — basically it’s time you would spend on the bench between shifts,” Lecours told Global News.

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Dr. Delaney would like to expand this idea to other hockey teams and programs to enhance concussion protocols.

“So if we can get it part of a Hockey Canada program, Hockey Quebec, through the different provinces, that’s where we are going to make the biggest difference in diagnosing concussions,” Delaney told Global News.