Sept. 28, 2021

Innovative project SHReds concussions and injuries in youth across Alberta

Faculty of Kinesiology-led SHRed Mobile is part research lab, part interactive education and more
SHRed mobile is a self-contained RV for concussion education and testing
The SHRed Mobile was unveiled on Sept. 25. Stacey McGuire, University of Calgary

A team of researchers, led by UCalgary's Carolyn Emery, unveiled the SHRed Mobile: a self-contained, converted recreation vehicle that will house equipment and Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre (SIPRC) staff and students to conduct sport-related concussion research, education, knowledge translation, and events across Alberta for youth.

The SHRed Mobile is supported by the Canada Foundation for Innovation John R. Evans Leaders Fund, in alignment with the Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Concussion held by Dr. Emery, PhD. Emery is an epidemiologist and physiotherapist in the Faculty of Kinesiology who leads a pan-Canadian research program in sport-related concussion in youth spanning the evaluation of concussion risk factors, prevention strategies, mechanisms, diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment to inform best practice and policy.

“It takes innovation and creativity to make research accessible and usable for the public. The SHRed Concussions team has found a novel way to translate their research into an interactive experience that will have a positive impact on the health of our communities,” says Dr. William Ghali, vice-president (research) at UCalgary.

Individuals may join the Research and Community Engagement (RACE) Symposium on Sept. 29, 2021, for a full day of interactive presentations and discussions focused on preventing and managing concussions in youth.

Let’s SHRed concussions

Emery’s team is the first Canadian research team to receive funding from the National Football League's Play Smart Play Safe Program to lead the Surveillance in High School and Community Sport to Reduce Concussions and Consequences of Concussions in Canadian Youth (SHRed Concussions) project. This multi-year, pan-Canadian project will inform a better understanding of the concussion burden, mechanisms, recovery, and management in high school-age athletes. 

SHRed concussion team members and Bantam hockey league members standing in front of the SHRed Mobile

In front of the SHRed Mobile, from left: Penny Werthner, Carolyn Emery, Gordie, Bill Monks (president, Bantam Football League), Ron Logan, Jonathan Smirl, Kathryn Schneider, Craig Reardon and Shane Esau.

Stacy McGuire, University of Calgary

“We will expand our research, education, and knowledge translation efforts in concussion and injury prevention to work with communities across Alberta. Our team aims to reduce youth sport-related concussions and their consequences so kids and their families can focus more on the fun, competition, and other benefits of sport. One of the key ‘vehicles’ to help us achieve this is the SHRed Mobile,” says Emery, chair of SIPRC at UCalgary, which is one of 11 International Research Centres for the Prevention of Injury and Protection of Athlete Health supported by the International Olympic Committee. 

The goal of SIPRC is to promote health and lifelong physical activity participation through the reduction of injuries — including concussions — in sport and recreation.

The Inside of the SHRed Mobile

Gordie, the Bantam Football mascot, tours the inside of the SHRed mobile which will soon house lab equipment.

“The SHRed Mobile is an innovative and natural progression of our program to scale up our concussion research in the Integrated Concussion Research Program at UCalgary with our wider Alberta communities. The SHRed Mobile will support our team to reach youth participants, schools, communities, and events outside of Calgary and area where more than 70 per cent of youth in Alberta live,” says Emery.

This work will have a significant public health impact. An estimated one in 10 youth will sustain a sport-related concussion each year in Alberta and more than 60 per cent of all concussions in youth occur in sport and recreational settings.

“I am excited to see the SIPRC’s most recent initiative — the SHRed Mobile. This is a groundbreaking and innovative concussion prevention and education vehicle that is designed to reach schools and youth sport participants, especially those outside of Calgary. The SHRed Mobile should help in reducing sport-related concussions in this vulnerable age group and with rural and Indigenous communities,” says John Paton, executive director, Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association.

A travelling concussion lab

The SHRed Mobile will support staff and students as they conduct testing sessions, post-concussion testing, clinical testing, video analysis, and wider implementation of wearable technologies. Further, the team will facilitate concussion and injury prevention education, including coach and teacher workshops throughout the province.

The SHRed Mobile will be in the Calgary area weekly, and monthly in other Alberta communities. Updates will be made available on the SIPRC website.

“The SHRed mobile is going to be an amazing tool for us to bring our world leading research and knowledge translation activities from UCalgary to the broader community. We will now truly be able to break down barriers in engaging with the broader communities in Calgary and across Alberta. It is going to be a gamechanger for our level of interactive community engagement,” says Dr. Jonathan Smirl, PhD, assistant professor and exercise and cerebrovascular physiologist in SIPRC, University of Calgary.

SHRed Concussions recruits participants

SIPRC is encouraging adolescents who participate in a SHRed Concussion identified sport or who suffered a concussion to sign up for this study. The SHRed Concussions school and community sports include football, rugby, ice hockey, ringette, sledge hockey, soccer, basketball, wheelchair basketball, volleyball, lacrosse, cheerleading, acrobatic and street style dance, and wrestling.

“The SHRed Mobile is an innovative approach that will reduce concussions and prevent many other injuries. This is an exciting development, one that I believe has an enormous opportunity to work with youth, families, coaches, teachers, teams, schools and local sports organizations,” says Dr. Penny Werthner, dean of the Faculty of Kinesiology. “I know the many SHRed Mobile partners and supporters are also excited by this fantastic opportunity.”

Funding and researchers

The SHRed Mobile has been supported by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Government of Alberta, University of Calgary Faculty of Kinesiology, Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health.

Dr. Carolyn Emery, PT PhD, is a professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and departments of Pediatrics and Community Health Science in the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary. Emery is a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute; the Hotchkiss Brain Institute; McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health; and O’Brien Institute for Public Health. Her research program is also supported by funds from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Alberta Innovates, International Olympic Committee,  the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, National Football League Scientific Advisory Board Play Smart Play Safe Program, and National Basketball Association General Electric partnership.

Dr. Jonathan Smirl, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and a member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, the Libin Cardiovascular Institute at the Cumming School of Medicine. Smirl specializes in sport-related concussions. He is a cerebrovascular and exercise physiologist, and his research informs a mechanistic approach to understanding concussion recovery. His team uses a better understanding of physiological mechanisms to develop informed exercise interventions to facilitate faster and improved recovery during acute and prolonged symptom periods.

The Integrated Concussion Research Program (ICRP) is a university-wide initiative to study concussion, bringing together experts from the Cumming School of MedicineFaculty of Kinesiology, and Faculty of Arts, with support from the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI) and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI). Community donations through the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation funded the creation of the ICRP and provide continuing support.

Led by the Hotchkiss Brain InstituteBrain and Mental Health is one of six research strategies guiding the University of Calgary toward its Eyes High goals. The strategy provides a unifying direction for brain and mental health research at the university and positions researchers to unlock new discoveries and treatments for brain health in our community. 

The Faculty of Kinesiology is ranked the No. 1 sport science school in North America and No. 11 globally.