Calgary

Sports-related brain injuries among children on the rise

The Canadian Institute for Health Information released a report Tuesday highlighting a big increase in emergency room visits in Alberta for sport-related concussions over the past five years.

Report from Canadian Institute for Health Information looked at 5 years of emergency room visits

With reported concussions on the rise among young athletes, especially in hockey, here are some tips from a Calgary sports store. 1:46

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) released a report Tuesday highlighting a big increase in emergency room visits for sport-related concussions over the past five years. 

The report uses combined data from Ontario and Alberta and shows a 78 per cent increase in sport-related brain injuries among kids nine and under and a 45 per cent increase among those 10 to 17 years old between 2010/11 and 2014/15.

Hockey continues to account for more brain injuries than any other sporting activity in the CIHI data, although the proportion of hockey-related injuries has been on the decline since 2011/12.

Click on this interactive graph to explore the proportion of brain-injury ER visits, by activity type, over the five years:

Ash Kolstad doesn't need a report to understand the effects of a concussion.

When has was 12, he was hit during the first game of his peewee season and immediately started feeling dizzy and developed a headache. 

He never played hockey again.

Ash Kolstad hasn't played hockey since he was 12, after suffering a concussion from a hit. (Ash Kolstad)

"I was seeing a sport medicine doctor, a family doctor, a physiotheraprist, a pyschologist, a psychiatrist, a neurologist and an osteopath," said Kolstad, who's now 19.

"I have a headache even today from that, ever since that hit."

'Diagnosing more concussions'

Dr. Raj Bardwaj is a family doctor in Calgary and said he's not surprised by the report's findings. 

Visits to the emergency room for sport-related head injuries are on the rise in Alberta, especially for young kids. Dr. Raj Bhardwaj explains some of the reasons why. 6:35

"I think we're all diagnosing more concussions, partly because we're seeing more people come in and bring their kids in," he said.

"We need to do something about hockey and how we're letting young kids and teenagers play hockey."

Kolstad said eliminating bodychecking at the peewee level was a good start.

With files from Dan McGarvey