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Parachute’s Safe Kids Week 2013 Puts the Spotlight on Concussions


I Introduction
II The research
III Key messages and tools
IV How communities can get involved
V Conclusion
VI References
VII Key resources

Submitted by: Kathy Blair, Coordinator, Media Relations and Communications, Parachute

I Introduction: Parachute’s Safe Kids Week 2013

The issue of concussions has been in the public eye a lot over the last couple of years, spurred on by the severe concussions suffered by some high profile athletes, including National Hockey League superstar Sidney Crosby. In addition, recent research findings that multiple brain injuries from such popular sports as football and hockey may lead to serious diseases, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), have drawn much interest. Recent Canadian research has also pointed to minor hockey as a sport where many kids are suffering concussions, leading to renewed debate about ways to make the sport safer. In fact, one study looking at the incidence of concussions on a Canadian minor hockey team suggests that the rate of injury is as much as seven times greater than was previously thought (Echlin et al., 2010). Parents and injury prevention advocates are understandably very interested in the concussion topic.

With Parachute having recently completed a major project on concussions with several partners, it seemed an appropriate time to share widely with Canadians, through Parachute’s Safe Kids Week (May 27 – June 2, 2013),what we’ve learned and produced. The theme is Heads Up! Be Alert. Be Safe. Be Aware of Concussions, focusing on concussion prevention and awareness. The goal is to raise awareness and provide actionable education messages to parents and caregivers through building the capacity of public health and community professionals around concussions.

Parachute will be supporting communities, health units, and other organizations across Canada as they roll out programming and events in their communities to raise awareness of concussions amongst Canadian parents, coaches, children and youth.

Below, we outline some of the research, share the key messages we’ve developed and let you know how you can find out more and get involved.

II The research

Parachute researcher Jayne Morrish and Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre health promotion coordinator Stacie Carey summarized the brief amount of research on parental attitudes toward concussion. They note first that recent research has found that parents can have a strong protective influence on how their teenagers approach potentially risky situations. Parents who model safer behaviours (e.g., wearing helmets and seatbelts, driving sober) and who behave in such a way that their teens feel comfortable sharing information about their lives and activities with them, may find their children are less likely to take maladaptive risks (Morrish et al., 2011).

Thus, it is important for parents to be knowledgeable about concussions, so they can best guide their teens and model appropriate behaviour themselves. Some of the limited research has suggested that parents are able to name some correct concussion symptoms but they may also cite incorrect ones (Coghlin, Myles & Howitt, 2009; Sullivan et al., 2009; Koo, 2013). As well, it has been indicated that many parents may be unaware of return-to-play guidelines (Koo, 2013; Sullivan et al., 2009).

Two recent Canadian surveys examined parents’ attitudes toward concussions. The first, Protecting Children and Youth: Canada speaks out on preventing traumatic spine and head injuries in amateur hockey, was conducted by the Rick Hansen Institute and published in March 2013. The second, the National Brain Injury & Concussion Survey, was conducted by Toronto-based company Field Day in April 2012. The first found two-thirds of parents surveyed supported raising the age of body-checking in hockey to 15, to reduce the risk of injury. The Field Day study found that many people mistakenly believed helmets could prevent concussion and that many young people believed physiotherapy and medication could treat concussion.

III Key messages and tools

In an effort to make the considerable amount of concussion information available easier for parents to understand and take action on, we developed our key messages for Parachute’s Safe Kids Week 2013 under three themes:

Be Alert: know that concussions are brain injuries

  • Concussions are not always taken as seriously as they should be. A concussion is a brain injury, which is the result of a direct force to the body, such as a blow to the head or elsewhere that causes a jarring or shaking to the brain.
  • Symptoms are numerous and can vary among people and may develop and change over time. They may include: headache, nausea, difficulty concentrating, sensitivity to sound and light and various emotional issues.
  • Parents are an important influence on their children and can talk to them about concussion and act as good role models.

Be Safe: get the tools to help prevent and identify concussions

  • These tools will help parents discover the ways to prevent and identify concussions.
  • At the Parachute website, you will find such valuable tools as: the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 3 (SCAT3), our Concussion Toolkit and Things to Know About Concussion tip sheet. We also encourage people to download Hockey Canada’s concussion app for their smartphones, to have it handy at the game.

Be Aware: know how to manage concussions

  • When in doubt, sit them out: once a child has sustained a suspected concussion, it’s important to take them out of the game or activity, rather than allowing them to continue.
  • When in doubt, check them out: it’s also important to take a child with a suspected concussion to a doctor for assessment and treatment recommendations.
  • When a child has had a concussion, the parents, coaches and teachers caring for the child should learn and follow return-to-play guidelines.
  • Concussion management may be different when the child has suffered concussions before, with the most extreme being a child permanently removed from contact sports altogether.

IV How communities can get involved

Parachute has posted at its website for Safe Kids Week ( a number of resources for communities to use. These include a community events tip sheet, posters (in English and French), the concussion stories of two young people, links to the Smart Hockey concussion toolkit, research on concussions, activities to illustrate the importance of the brain, the Pocket SCAT3 card, guidelines for return to play, a link to the Active and Safe Concussion toolkit developed by Parachute and links to our partners’ resources.

V Conclusion

Concussion is an important issue that is drawing a lot of attention these days. Parachute hopes this year’s Safe Kids Week can contribute important tools to benefit these discussions.  

For more information, please email the coordinator of Parachute’s Safe Kids Week 2013, Jacquelyn Quirk,

VI References

Coghlin, C. J., Myles, B. D., &Howitt, S. D. (2009). The ability of parents to accurately report concussion occurrence in their bantam-aged minor hockey league children. The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, 53, 233-250.

Cusimano, M. D., Chipman, M. L., Volpe, R., & Donnelly, P. (2009). Canadian minor hockey participants' knowledge about concussion.The Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, 36, 315-320.

Echlin, P. S., Tator, C. H., Cusimano, M. D., Cantu, R. C., Taunton, J. E., Upshur, R. E., ... &Skopelja, E. N. (2010). A prospective study of physician-observed concussions during junior ice hockey: implications for incidence rates. Neurosurgical Focus, 29(5), 4.

Morrish, J., Kennedy, P. and Groff, P. (2011). Parental influence over teen risk-taking: A review of the literature. SMARTRISK: Toronto, ON.

Morrongiello, B., Corbett, M. & Bellissimo, A. (2008). “Do as I say, not as I do”: Family influences on children’s safety and risk behaviours. Health Psychology, 27 (4), 498-503.

National Brain Injury & Concussion Survey: Selected Highlights. (2012). Field Day: Toronto, ON.

Rick Hansen Institute. (2013). Protecting Children and Youth: Canada speaks out on preventing traumatic spine and head injuries in amateur hockey. Retrieved March 7th, 2013 from

Willoughby, T. &Hamza, C. (2011). A longitudinal examination of the bidirectional associations among perceived parenting behaviors, adolescent disclosure and problem behavior across the high school years. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40, 463-478.

VII Key resources

At Parachute’s website (, you will find numerous resources on concussion on the Safe Kids Week page.

Our partners have developed their own concussion resources: