New concussion program eases pain for both kids and parents

After a concussion, children and youth need medical attention and rehabilitation care from health care professionals – that’s a no-brainer. But to maintain a high standard of care going forward, we need to train health care students on pediatric concussion management.

The concussion centre at Holland Bloorview is making this happen and supporting kids and families along the way. The On TRACK Health Professional Student Training Program is an exciting new approach to training the next generation of pediatric concussion experts.

On TRACK invites up to 50 students from fields like occupational therapy, physical therapy and social work each year to participate. Every student has three roles: give free ‘Concussion & You’ family education sessions at the hospital; support community outreach and advocacy programs; and help plan and conduct research studies that focus on pediatric concussion.

“When someone has a concussion, it can be difficult to access good information and direction in a timely manner,” says Dr. Nick Reed, the concussion centre’s director. This innovative program not only provides an incredible training environment for the next generation of health care providers, it also ensures children and parents get timely access to important information that they can use to help with recovery.

The health professional students also appreciate the opportunity to learn, and to share what they know.

In addition to the seminars, and the opportunity to learn about and be a part of pediatric concussion research, the students are also out in the communities spreading the word about pediatric concussion. They’re delivering presentations to schools, sports leagues, and community centres.

“For me, the best part is working with families,” says Melissa Hansen, a Masters of Occupational Therapy student from the University of Toronto. “They come with worry written all over their faces. It’s incredibly rewarding to see these families walk away smiling and feeling confident because they have a concussion management plan for their child.”

The ’Concussion & You’ family education and support sessions aim to help children and youth with a concussion “keep their tank full” and would not be possible without support from generous community donors.

When recovering from a concussion, your body and brain need energy, explains Dr. Reed. But when you have a concussion your tank is half full because a lot of that energy is going to healing. “With our ‘Concussion & You’ sessions we’re going to give you strategies to keep that tank full,” he says. “We review sleep strategies, relaxation strategies, nutrition strategies, and return to activities strategies. We also give out resources that can help people guide their recovery.”

Behind the scenes, Dr. Reed and his team are also evaluating On TRACK to assess its impact on families as well as on students. “We’re seeing great success early on,” says Dr. Reed. “And by evaluating this program we’re hoping to package this model for children’s hospitals around the world to better train future health care professionals on how to best support kids and families after a concussion.”