Healthy Living in the North

Concussion: There’s an app for that!

I’m sure many of us know someone who has suffered a concussion, or been unfortunate enough to experience one personally. I know several of my friends have been diagnosed with a concussion in the last few months alone.

Concussions don’t just happen in major car crashes and extreme hockey hits. A concussion is any blow to the body or head that causes the brain to move around inside the skull. This could be caused by a seemingly minor fall or hit, even where you don’t lose consciousness at all.

There are several red flag symptoms to watch for if you suspect a concussion. If you see any of the following symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Red flag symptoms of concussion

  • Neck pain
  • Increased confusion or irritability
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Seizure or convulsion
  • Weakness in arms/legs
  • Tingling or burning in arms/legs
  • Deteriorating consciousness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severe or increasing headache
  • Unusual behaviour change
  • Double vision
App graphic

Concussion Ed is available in the Apple App Store as well as Google Play for Android devices. Concussion Ed is also available via a web-based version for Blackberry and Windows users.

If you or your child has been diagnosed with a concussion, physical and mental rest are important in making a full recovery. Parachute Canada has made learning about concussions and tracking healing easy with their new app, Concussion Ed.

Why download a concussion app?

Parachute Canada cautions:

the real dangers of most concussions occur when the injury is not recognized or is managed incorrectly. Returning to activities too early can put a child at increased risk for future concussions and serious complications.

The Concussion Ed app is designed to provide easy-to-follow information geared towards parents, youth, and educators. Concussion Ed can be used for anyone caring for a child who is suspected of having or recovering from a concussion. This app provides a format to share information with your health care provider to ensure the best care and recovery.

Concussion Ed features

  • Ways to prevent concussions
  • Recognize a concussion
  • Manage symptoms after a concussion
  • Track your recovery

Concussion facts

  • Concussions do not always include a loss of consciousness.
  • Helmets do not protect against concussions, but do protect from skull fractures.
  • A hit to the body can cause a concussion, even if the head was not hit.
  • The signs and symptoms of a concussion can be delayed up to weeks post injury.

Watch Concussion 101: A Primer for Kids and Parents then download Concussion Ed to learn more!

Natasha Thorne

About Natasha Thorne

After many years in southern B.C., Natasha was drawn back to her hometown of Prince George in 2006 by the lure of extended family, sub-boreal forests, and raising her babes exploring the backwoods of her own childhood. Whether nose in a book or in real life, Natasha is an aspiring world traveller planning overseas vacations so she and her husband can give their two children a wider perspective of living in today's global community. As the full time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention for Northern Health, Natasha is committed to the north and is passionate about supporting the health and well-being of northerners.


It’s a no brainer!

Skier sliding on a rail.

No-one looks uncool wearing a helmet and doing a rail slide… Gear up!

When I was a teenager I used to think that wearing a helmet was pretty much the dorkiest thing that I could possibly be seen in; was I ever wrong. One day I was snowboarding at Powder King and I was approaching a flat part of the hill. In order to make it to the lift, I had to build up my speed and before I knew it, I had tumbled head over heels about 6 times. My whole body was stiff and I was black and blue all over, but thankfully I was wearing a helmet. This got me thinking, “Why is it so dorky to protect myself?”

As Canadians we don’t let much hold us back. We spend time outside in all 4 seasons and have fun doing it but we need to keep safety in the sport to keep it fun. Did you know that head and spinal cord injuries are increasing? The majority of head injuries are concussions. Traumatic brain injuries account for 50-88 per cent of deaths for both skiers and snowboarders (Parachute Canada). Simply wearing the proper safety equipment, including a helmet, can prevent many of these fatalities. In fact, wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by 35% while skiing and snowboarding.

Head injuries often go unnoticed since there is often no visible evidence and many people don’t notice obvious symptoms. Indications of head injuries may not be open wounds or bruises; however, a possible head injury can occur when either the head is bumped or jolted directly (blow to the head) or indirectly (blow to the body causing the head to be jolted or whipped) in a way that causes the brain to bounce around in the skull.

The British Columbia Injury Research and Prevention Unit has created the Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) for coaches, parents and players to learn more about concussion awareness. CATT was developed to raise awareness including causes, signs, and how to care for someone who is suffering from a concussion. If you could prevent injury by taking a simple step-by-step guide about concussion awareness, why wouldn’t you? Be the leader and educate yourself so you can educate others. You could save a life. You can check out the training tool at CATT online.

Next time you’re out enjoying your winter activities, think to yourself, “What’s more important, how I look? Or whether or not I am safe?” Concussions matter, wear a helmet & gear up for winter!

You could win a new ski/winter sport helmet! Enter the Gear Up for Winter contest!

Check out the awesome YouTube video we made!

Learn more:

Kimberlee Hrabinsky

About Kimberlee Hrabinsky

Originally from Prince George, Kimberlee has returned to her hometown via stops in North Battleford, Calgary, Dawson Creek and Quesnel to attend the Nursing program at UNBC. Outside of school and practicum work, Kimberlee enjoys going to the lake, taking pictures, camping, and being outdoors.


Prince George Cougars trainer talks concussions

Canada's game - a risky one.

Canada’s game – a game that sees many headlines for its dangers.

The overarching theme of my youth was sports: I played baseball, hockey, tennis, volleyball, basketball and golf. Those activities were accompanied by a lot of great friends, a competitiveness that helps me succeed to this day, and, unfortunately, injuries. There are a couple injuries that stand out more than others, but the one that always comes to mind when I think about my injuries is the first time I was concussed.

I was playing midget hockey in Port Moody, where I grew up. As I tried to fish the puck out from between my skates, a taller player skated past me, landing a hefty elbow to my jaw. Despite the fact that I was wearing a cage, I dropped. This happened around 1997, when the mentality of head injuries was changing from “you just got your bell rung” to the concussion culture we know today. I vividly recall opening my eyes, seeing green spots and thinking to myself, “Oh, so this is a concussion.” Luckily for me, it wasn’t significant and the recovery time was only a week.

Today, most people have either had a concussion or have seen a highlight of someone who’s suffered one. For instance, Sidney Crosby getting blindsided in the Winter Classic was played over and over again as his highly anticipated return from the resulting concussion drew near. Because sport and concussion is so closely linked, I spoke with Ramandeep “Chico” Dhanjal, Head Trainer with the Prince George Cougars, to discuss concussions and Canada’s game.

Chico, are they any exercises a person can do to limit their chances of suffering a concussion?

There are no exercises that can prevent you from getting a concussion.

What hockey-related suggestions would you give a person to help avoid concussions?

Be aware of your setting and know where you are on the ice – are you close to the boards or in open ice? Also, make sure that you are properly fitted with equipment like helmets and mouth guards.

What tests do you do to determine if a player is concussed?                                       

A player must do a baseline online concussion test every year at the beginning of the season. If a player is hurt during a game or practice we use the new sport concussion testing called the SCAT3. If a player shows any symptoms of having a concussion that are revealed on the test then he is subject to rest until symptom free.

Are you noticing a changing culture in hockey around playing with a concussion?

There is certainly a change. The game has changed so much; players are getting bigger, faster, and stronger. But we are also seeing symptoms sooner and faster. Players are getting smarter now in recognizing that if they are not feeling like their normal self and have symptoms to let someone know sooner than later.

What risks does a player subject themselves to by playing with a concussion?

The major risk of playing with a concussion is having yourself injured for a longer period of time. A concussion can slow down your reaction time, thinking and awareness of your surroundings on the ice, putting yourself at danger and risk of further injuring yourself. Also, your recovery time can be increased by playing with a concussion and you will be out for a longer period of time.

For more information on concussions, please visit Northern Health’s concussion page.

You can also find more hockey-related concussion information at Hockey Canada.

And don’t forget to show us how you’re preventing concussions by entering our Falls Across the Ages page (Editor’s note: the contest is now closed).


Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic 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!


A Focus on injury prevention

Preventing seniors' fallsHave you ever watched America’s Funniest Videos? Without fail, I find myself giggling or laughing out loud at the montage of videos showing people falling, tripping, tumbling and crashing off their bikes, over their dogs, off their decks, etc. I don’t want to be that person who laughs at other people’s misfortunes, but sitting on my sofa in the comfort of my home, it all seems so harmless and comical.

Now I ask you, have you ever had the chance to sit and listen to a parent describe the gut-wrenching screams of their child who broke a bone or sustained a head injury from a fall? Have you ever chatted with a senior when they describe the shock and pain of falling and breaking their hip, having to give up the comfort of living in their home in their neighborhood because they could not regain their previous level of independence? What do you think about all the professional athletes who have died, taken their own life, or never again played at the same level as a result of a concussion? Do you know someone who has had to change their life, either for a weekend, season or long-term because of the painful, confusing and unpredictable symptoms after suffering a concussion? Suddenly, the risk of serious injury from a fall is not at all harmless or in the least bit comical. Everyone knows someone who has had their life changed as a result of a fall.

While I’m shining a light on the serious risk of injury that accompanies a fall, let me challenge your assumptions about injuries in general. Did you know that most injuries are preventable? Injuries are the fifth leading cause of death in Canada and BC; they are the third leading cause of death in northern BC. We have higher rates of injury from motor vehicle crashes, suicides and falls than our provincial counterparts, and like the rest of the province and country, we have populations who are more vulnerable to the cost, pain, disability and tragedy of injury, such as seniors, children and youth, men and Aboriginal peoples.

Do injuries have to be a part of life? No. Can we still live full, fun, active, healthy lives while managing the serious risks of fall-related injuries?  Yes, we can! As challenges us, have a word with yourself.

Show us how for a chance to win prizes!

Do you live your life actively and fully while managing your risk for injury? Show us. Send in your pictures, stories, videos, and artwork of how to bring awareness to preventing injuries and you’ll have a chance to win weekly prizes. Visit our contest page for full details!

Join us in weekly contests this month to raise awareness about seniors’ falls prevention, childhood falls prevention, and concussion awareness. And for more information about preventing seniors’ falls, preventing childhood falls and concussion awareness and management, visit our Injury Prevention website.

Denise Foucher

About Denise Foucher

Denise is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about working towards health and wellness for everyone in Northern B.C. When not at work, Denise can be found out at the lake, walking her dog, planning her next travel adventure, or snuggled in a cozy chair with a good book.


Safe Kids Week 2013

Bike riding with helmets

Get out there, have fun and play hard! Safe Kids Week is a good time to remember to know the risks, wear the gear and play safe – all the time!

I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing when many people hear the term ‘injury prevention,’ they think boring, rules, gear, barriers to fun, walk don’t run – all sorts of connotations that don’t have anything to do with getting out there, having fun, and playing hard! The reality is, the main focus in preventing injuries isn’t about more rules, more legislation, more barriers to fun or anything like that…for now, it’s about more awareness. Don’t get me wrong, we have rules and regulations for a reason, and they are an important piece of the puzzle in helping us prevent certain types of injuries. But you can’t prevent much of anything if you don’t know there’s a risk of it happening in the first place, which brings us back to awareness.

That’s one of the reasons why the theme for this year’s Safe Kids Week is “Heads Up! Be Alert. Be Safe. Be Aware of Concussions.” Thanks to the media focusing on big names like Sidney Crosby, it seems like everyone knows he’s at risk for concussions. But how many people think that an 11-year-old soccer player is at risk too? The key things to think about during this year’s Safe Kids Week, which runs from May 27-June 2, are these:

  • Concussions can happen to anyone.
  • Concussions are often underdiagnosed and under-treated because the symptoms can be hard to recognize.
  • Concussions can have long-term effects.
  • Good concussion management (including both physical and emotional rest) decreases the risk of permanent brain damage.

So, in the words of,

Before you think only pro-athletes get concussions, have a word with yourself.

And in the words of me, get out there, have more fun, play hard…just know the risks, wear the gear and play safe so you can do it again next time!

For more information and resources about concussion awareness and prevention, visit the Safe Kids Canada webpage or preventable’s concussion campaign webpage.

Local contact information and more resources or ideas on how to promote injury prevention in your community can be found on the NH Injury Prevention webpage.

Lynette Hewitt

About Lynette Hewitt

Lynette Hewitt works in Fort St. John as an Injury Prevention Coordinator for Northern Health. After receiving a BScN from UNBC, Lynette traveled a bit, then returned to her hometown of Fort St. John where she worked in med/surg, public health nursing, and home nursing care before settling into her current role. When not at work, she is trying to keep up with life as a busy wife and mom, which may or may not include time for snowshoeing, hiking, biking, camping, fishing, geocaching and, for a few short months, gardening!