By Michael Asiffo
The Ontario Basketball Association (OBA) and the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital has teamed up to get kids talking about the C word; Concussions.
Concussions has been a huge talking point in the last decade due to the tragic loss of our athletes. Lots of work has been done to raise awareness when it comes to concussions, so to Holland Bloorview’s Jason Carmichael it is now about educating.
Jason Carmichael is the Co-director of the Concussion Centre at the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. Carmichael has also an extensive resume in business and science.
In this VIBE TALKS interview by correspondent Michael Asiffo, Carmichael, discusses this partnership in detail along with the long term benefits to Ontarians.
Michael: What is this partnership between The Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and the Ontario Basketball Association all about?
Jason: This collaboration is really about co-developing and then executing a comprehensive concussion strategy to really help improve the safety of the players that play within the Ontario Basketball Association. The fundamental piece of the collaboration is around educating all stakeholders; whether its players, coaches, parents or referees on proper ways to identify concussions and what to do should a child sustain a suspected concussion. It’s about giving them the information they need to improve the safety so that people are doing the right thing when it comes to concussions
Michael: The first step that you guys are taking is classes to kids who will be playing basketball in the OBA, correct?
Jason: Yeah. So with the education component, there are many different initiatives that will unfold regarding education. Sort of the first step that we started with was doing a series of concussion classroom sessions with boys and girls aged 12-14, who are in the Ontario summer development program. So, we hosted four sessions per day, over a number of weeks and we are going to build off that; hopefully connect with more teams and down the road, create some different awareness initiatives to really ensure people are getting the right message around concussions.
Michael: Did you run into any trouble letting the kids know about concussions but still dumbing it down to their level?
Jason: As a pediatric concussion centre, we sort of live and breathe all things concussions for the pediatric population. So, for kids as old as 18 and as young as five, we have expertise in adapting our messaging to ensure the right messaging is getting to our audience. So if we have a younger group, we change the language that we use and the messaging that we use so that it resonates with them. But we also use a number of different strategies. We know that things like infographics, so taking complex ideas and putting them in a graphic to make them more digestible, goes a long way with our youth audience. So we like to use some of those strategies to ensure that what we are providing is actually resonating with our audience and adapting it based on the needs of the kids we’re educating.
"We know that things like infographics, so taking complex ideas and putting them in a graphic to make them more digestible, goes a long way with our youth audience."
Michael: Not to diminish the amount of concussions in basketball, but you never really hear about concussions in the mainstream media. In your opinion is there a concussion issue in basketball?
Jason: So I would not say there is a concussion issue in basketball, but what I would say is that although you may not hear that often of concussions in basketball, they still do occur. There still are instances that I can even think of in the NBA, for example, where players have sustained concussions. We do not traditionally think of basketball as a contact sport, but anyone whose played it, or been around the game, or follows it recognizes that it is a very physical game. Concussions can happen at any time in any way and it does not always have to be direct contact to your head; it can be contact to your body.
Also I think that it’s important to recognize that the kids that are part of the OBA or that are playing basketball are also kids that are out on the playground and are kids that might play another sport. I think that it really important that they are able to recognize that this can happen to anyone at any time and to equip them with the knowledge to be able to identify that, communicate that to the right people and to ensure that they are doing the right things in the event that they do have a concussion to best support recovery to get right back to it. So, to answer your question, it’s not necessarily something we think of in the basketball world. But I think it’s great that the OBA has stepped up and are really leading the way in this to ensure people have the right training. Because it can happen in basketball, even though it’s not the most common sport that we see it.
Michael: Do you think other basketball leagues are doing enough when it comes to concussions?
Jason: You know, leagues can always do more when it comes to concussions. The one thing about concussions is that it’s fairly recent that it’s become such a hot topic in the media. What that is doing is creating a lot of awareness about concussions, which is great that more people are recognizing it as a serious injury because it is a brain injury after all. But, what it is also doing is creating sort of mixed messages about concussions and creating a lot of confusion and misconceptions about concussions. So I think it is really important that all leagues take a great interest in ensuring that the information that their membership and participants are receiving is credible - that it is evidence informed through research and that it is the latest information when it comes to concussions. At the end of the day, again, we want to make sure the people playing that sports are as safe as possible and if they sustain a concussion, are doing the right thing to get back to playing that sport.
Michael: The OBA is one of the first leagues to do this partnership, has there been any league at the grassroots level that has approach Holland Bloorview about doing something similar?
Jason: At Holland Bloorview, we realized that we really could not have gotten the message out without partnering with great grassroots organizations like Ontario Basketball and we have been successful in partnering with a number of different organizations. The Greater Toronto Hockey League, Rugby Ontario, the Ontario Soccer Association, the Toronto Soccer Association as well, and these organizations are really leading the way when it comes to putting together concussion strategies. I will say that there is upcoming legislation that will mandate that leagues spend more time around educating their membership and putting in proper policies and protocols in place. But some of these leagues or organizations that I have mentioned are really taking a proactive approach and get out in front of that and take a leadership stance. So to answer your question the OBA is one of the first organizations to do that and there are many other organizations that are following suit.
Michael: Where can we get more information about Holland Bloorview and their partnership with OBA?