The Lakehead Sports Medicine Concussion Clinic  

A hub for health care and health science research

By: Savanah Tillberg, Staff Writer

The concept of health care and how we should approach it is constantly evolving and as an institution, Lakehead prides itself on being a frontrunner in this field. In November of 2014, Lakehead University became home to the Lakehead Sports Medicine Concussion Clinic.

In Canada it is estimated that 660 out of 100, 000 people suffer from concussions every year. 18,000 people suffer from traumatic brain injuries every year in Ontario alone. Roughly 30% of concussion incidents in Canada are caused by motor vehicle crashes, but the second largest cause is sports injuries, which make up 20% of cases. Concussions are considered to be “invisible injuries” but their symptoms are often far from invisible and, depending on the severity of the injury, can be permanent.

Thunder Bay is home to countless recreational and competitive sports teams and also acts as a competition destination for the smaller surrounding communities, making it an ideal center for a concussion clinic in Northern Ontario. Sawyer Jonker, an intern at Lakehead Sports Medicine Concussion Clinic at the time of its establishment emphasized the importance of its existence in Thunder Bay, as the city “is becoming a hub for health care and health science research in Northwestern Ontario.” He says the clinic will give “opportunities to people from remote areas who [don’t] necessarily receive the care they need in their communities [as they] are not as well equipped.”

The Lakehead Sports Medicine Concussion Clinic is an interdisciplinary center open to athletes across the city. The clinic practices a “Return to Play (RTP) Protocol” which consists of six rehabilitation stages used to help athletes recover 100% before returning to their sport in order to decreased the likelihood of future and more severe head injuries.

In addition to RTP the clinic uses pre-season screening and baseline testing to more accurately diagnose and treat concussions in athletes. Before the season begins, the athlete undergoes neurocognitive testing in order to understand their “measures of memory, reaction time, and visual-motor speed.” These are all determined using ImPACT, which stands for Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Tool. The results are then kept on record and if an athlete suffers and injury where concussion is possible, they undergo further testing for comparison. This technology is very effective in providing accurate diagnoses, which is extremely important, as the severity of a concussion will affect the time required for recovery.

Dr. Dave McKee, who has been a member of the Lakehead Sports Medicine Clinic since 2013, manages the clinic. Dr. McKee has not always been involved in sports medicine, but he says it has always been an interest of his. Upon the clinic’s opening, Dr. McKee said the goal was to deliver treatment to patients that would help them avoid the long-term effects of concussions such as headaches, disability, and personality changes. He also said, “One of my big goals is to treat them and get them better as fast as they can, but also to maintain them in a passion that they love.”

In addition to treating local athletes, the clinic functions as a research center for its physicians as well as Lakehead Students. Through the clinic the Dr. McKee hopes to continue increasing his and others understanding of concussion management through rest and rehabilitation so that athletes can safely return to their daily activities. The clinic can be accessed by athletes through phone and email, all of which can be found on their website.