Inaugural See the Line event a resounding success

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

It was a sobering moment; Dr. Ann McKee showed slides of athletes, some still in their teens, who died after receiving one or more sports concussions. She was making a point to the 500 plus athletes, coaches, parents and health professionals who packed a room at the Arthur and Sonia Labatt Health Sciences Building on Wednesday, August 14 for the inaugural See the Line Concussion Research and Awareness Education and Community Information Symposium, organized by the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. Sports concussions can change lives forever, or in some cases end them abruptly.

See the Line is an initiative designed to reduce the incidence of concussion, improve care through research, and create awareness about the serious impact of concussions. It's a collaborative initiative by Western University, including the Faculties of Health Sciences and Engineering, and Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, London Health Sciences Foundation, St. Joseph's Health Care Foundation, Children's Health Foundation, Robarts Research Institute, Lawson Health Research Institute, and Children's Health Research Institute.

The event included the free public symposium along with a fundraising Gala and Armchair Discussion which drew 300 participants and a golf tournament at Sunningdale Golf & Country Club which attracted about 200 golfers. This is a 10-year initiative to position London as a leader in concussion research, care and awareness.

Retired NHL star Eric Lindros was the Honorary Chair for See the Line and during the symposium, he put it bluntly, "concussions suck." They were the reason he stepped away from a game he loved. Other audience participants shared their own stories of ongoing health issues after concussions.

The audience heard from Dr. Lisa Fischer from the Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic who made it clear that athletes need to sit out until they are fully recovered; Dr. Douglas Fraser of the Department of Paediatrics explained how concussions can happen at any age; Dr. Arjang Yazdani from the Division of Plastic Surgery showed what happens with face fractures; and Dr. Arthur Brown of Robarts Research Institute discussed his efforts to find a new therapy to lessen the impact of concussions and spinal cord injuries.

The keynote speaker, Dr. McKee of the Boston University School of Medicine is a world renowned expert who has studied the brains of deceased NHL and NFL athletes. She explained how early concussions can lead to Traumatic Encephalopathy, ongoing brain damage which can cause personality changes, suicidal thoughts, fits of rage, and other symptoms.

All the presentations were captured by Rogers Television for the show Podium. While there is no firm air-date announced as yet, the show is expected to air in September.

Dr. Michael J. Strong, dean, Schulich Medicine & Dentistry and a driving force behind See the Line couldn't have been happier with the response to the inaugural event. "London is an ideal place for concussion research because we have such an incredible depth of expertise and resources here - everything from clinicians specializing in sport-related injuries, to our advanced imaging facilities, to our outstanding basic science and clinical researchers. We have everything we need here to be doing this type of work." And it was clear from the response, that the public couldn't agree more.

Photo caption: keynote speaker, Dr. Ann McKee, Professor, Neurology and Pathololgy, Boston University School of Medicine and Dr. Michael J. Strong, Dean of Schulich Medicine & Dentistry with some of See the Line's special guest.