Montreal·Video

Montreal researchers find fast, efficient way to test hockey players for concussion on the ice

Unlike traditional methods of testing for concussions, this test — called the Skates Balance Error Scoring System — allows players to keep on their skates and the rest of their equipment as they are being tested. 

Lead researcher says test, which allows players to stay laced up, may reduce under-reporting of symptoms

Researchers at the McGill University Health Centre say they've developed a better, faster way to test for concussions in hockey. 0:59

Researchers at Montreal's McGill University Health Centre say they have developed a safe, fast and reliable way to assess concussions in hockey. 

The MUHC researchers studied 80 university hockey players, both men and women, at McGill and Concordia to test the technique. The results are published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine.

Unlike traditional methods of testing for concussions, this test, called the Skates Balance Error Scoring System, allows players to keep on their skates and the rest of their equipment as they are being tested. 

Dr. Scott Delaney, a sports medicine physician, was the lead researcher on the study. He said it was important to develop a new method of testing for concussions, because they are still under-reported by athletes.

"We needed to come up with something that could be done reliably and quicker than the test where they have to get completely unchanged and redressed, so that athletes might be more forthcoming with their symptoms," said Delaney. 

The new method of testing focuses on a player's ability to maintain their balance.

After a suspected concussion, a player is asked to stay balanced on their skates, while in three different stances. The number of times the player stumbles is then compared to that player's pre-season baseline. 

The traditional method of testing involved a lot more steps.

"The player would come out of the game, go into our medical room and be administered a test that involved a questionnaire; it involved some balance," said McGill Martlets head coach Peter Smith.

"It was fairly extensive in terms of the length of time." 

Smith said some players would feel less inclined to report symptoms, because the delays caused by going through traditional concussion testing would sometimes mean they'd have to sit out the rest of the game. 

Martlets forward Kellyane Lecours has suffered two concussions in the past three years.

"The second one, I didn't even realize I got hit," Lecours said. "It happened fast. Nobody really saw it. I felt good so I stayed in the game." 

Lecours's experience isn't unusual. Players often feel OK and don't want to bother with the concussion protocol because it takes too long.

"For athletes, we play our sports because we love our sports. We don't want to miss a minute of it," said Lecours. 

Based on a report by CBC's Simon Nakonechny

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