Healthy Living in the North

The long-term toll of concussions

Andrea downhill skiing

Andrea Cochrane competes in downhill skiing – an activity that would result in several concussions and long-term health effects.

After learning about the Falls Across The Ages contest and concussion prevention week, I couldn’t help but think of my friend Laurie Cochrane, a fellow nurse, audiology technician, and retired Northern Health employee after 38 years of service.

Last year, Laurie shared with me her powerful and tragic story of how she lost her beautiful and athletic daughter, Andrea Cochrane. In her teens, Andrea was a downhill ski racer who suffered three concussions in eight months and two more as an adult during her working year as a geophysicist. Although a diagnosis of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) could not be confirmed due to the poor integrity of the brain tissue received for research, Laurie had no doubt that her daughter’s concussions had altered her brain over time and led to symptoms resulting in the very sad and untimely death of her daughter in 2011.

Laurie’s story had a profound impact on me and I’ve learned a lot from her about the importance of taking sports falls and concussions very seriously. Laurie is a remarkable and passionate woman and I thank her for finding the strength to share her story and knowledge with me. Laurie was kind enough to answer some questions regarding concussion awareness.

What message do you have for people dealing with concussion injuries or for parents of children with concussion injuries?

The single most important thing I would like to convey about concussion injuries to parents, the person suffering the concussion, coaches, medical caregivers – everyone – is that concussions MUST be taken seriously. We know so much more now than we did even five years ago and it is vital that we inform ourselves and others about the potential for long-term effects of concussions. It is important to know that the term “concussion” does not mean what it used to mean to us years ago, when it was thought the effects were short-term and returning to the activity soon after was not a problem.  This is simply no longer the case and returning too soon creates the very real probability of another head injury. I wish with all my heart that we knew then (when my daughter suffered her concussions ski racing) what we know now. She may still be alive today.

What does “just a bump on the head” mean to you today?

 The statement “just a bump on the head” has such a different meaning to me now than it did even only a few years ago.  The knowledge that has been gained by dedicated research around the area of concussion tells us that you don’t even have to show signs of concussion to have suffered one! That is really something we need to pay attention to and use it as a huge red flag in our growing awareness around head injuries.

Is there anything else you would like to share with people about concussion prevention awareness?

Like most things, the more you inform yourself, the better you can protect and take care of yourself. If you are an athlete, be smart about concussions. As a parent or a coach, learn about the implications of concussions and the potential seriousness. Concussions affect the brain inside our skull – you can’t see the injury so obviously! Pay attention to head injuries as it could allow you to be active for many years to come, and indeed, even save your life.

To learn more about Andrea, please visit the Sports Legacy Institute.

For more information on concussion awareness and prevention, visit Northern Health’s concussion awareness and prevention page.

 

Sarah Brown

About Sarah Brown

Sarah Brown was born in Zambia, Africa and has lived and worked in many small rural communities across Canada. Prince George has been home for the past 20 years with her husband, two children, cat and dog. Sarah is a graduate of UNBC and a Public Health Nurse Practice Development Leader. She has many interests in the field of preventive public health. Sarah love’s being outdoors (even in the snow!) and is often out hiking, appreciating the beautiful trees, birds and blue skies of the north. Sarah is passionate about learning, reading, gardening & watercolor painting!

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Comments

  1. Hi Sarah,

    Shaam here at CBC Radio in Prince George. Trying to get in touch with Laurie to talk about her daughter and the message she wants to share about concussions. I’ve already left a message on her home phone but do you have a cell for her?

    We’d like to st up an interview with her for tomorrow morning, so the sooner we can connect with Laurie, the better chance we have of getting all the details squared away.

    My number is 250-562-6701. Email address was submitted with this comment.

    Thanks!

    • Hi Shaam,

      Thanks for your interest in this important message. For all media requests, can you please call the Northern Health media line at 1-877-961-7724. Someone will be able to help facilitate your request through that process.

      Thanks very much,
      Jessica Quinn
      Communications

  2. http://Tara%20Linton says

    Thanks for your words and wisdom, Sarah. Andrea was actually a friend of mine – we met at World Cup in Lake Louise & she was my roommate at the Olympics. We think of her so often out here and miss her a lot! Never far from my mind is the potential and unknown impacts that a concussion can really cause. It is something to be taken quite seriously and has thankfully gained a great deal of momentum in recent years. I hope you continue to spread the word.