A treadmill to heal concussions

News 19 July, 2017
  • Photo Anne Caroline Desplanques
    Charlotte Alarie is suffering from a concussion since she has received a soccer ball on the head. To help his brain recover, it uses the program of cognitive training Neurotracker in the context of a clinical trial.

    Anne Caroline Desplanques

    Wednesday, 19 July 2017 06:30

    Wednesday, 19 July 2017 06:30

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    An exercise designed to improve the vision of the game among the athletes that could heal concussions in children, according to researchers who tested this treatment.

    “It’s like a treadmill for the brain “, smiled Dr. Isabelle Gagnon, a researcher at the research Institute of the MUHC and physiotherapist at the Montreal children’s Hospital.

    Dr. Gagnon wants to assess if a program of cognitive training designed to improve the brain functions can help the brain heal from a concussion.

    Nicknamed Neurotracker, the program invented at the University of Montreal is used to improve the sports skills among the Vancouver Canucks and the FC Barcelona, in particular.

    “In athletes, it changes the connections in the brain,” explains Dr. Gagnon. We want to know if we can use this ability to reconfigure the brain to help regenerate after a concussion. “

    Charlotte Alarie, 14 years of age, shall submit to treatment for a month in the hope that it will help him to recover from his third concussion in just 14 months. For the third time, she was struck in the head by a ball in the gym of his school.


    Black belt of karate, the girl was never injured on the mat, but the gym of his school became his worst enemy. Because of his multiple concussions, it has not been able to do his final examinations and has discontinued the practice of his sport.

    Her mother, Melanie Duff, so has learned to recognize the signs of a concussion. “When I was picking them up from school, I immediately saw that she had the symptoms of a concussion. She took the time to answer me, she was drowsy, she had a headache. Then we immediately went to the emergency, ” she says.

    When the Montreal children’s Hospital has offered to invite her daughter to participate in the experience, she did not hesitate.

    “A brain, it’s just so much to put all the chances on his side,” she said.

    Twice a week, Charlotte is therefore installed in the dark in a small room of the hospital, in front of a screen with 3D glasses on the nose. Eight tennis balls are moving quickly in all directions. The computer refers to the four bullets that she must not leave the eyes.

    Heal faster

    For the moment, Charlotte is puzzled. “I don’t feel a difference,” breath-t-it. But his mother is confident. “As a parent, you’ll see that she has recovered,” said Ms. Duff. It took three months in Charlotte to recover from the previous two blows to the head.

    “Thirty percent of children still have symptoms a month after the shock,” explains Dr. Gagnon. It takes longer to recover for them than for adults because their brain is not complete. While he regenerates after the shock, it must continue to generate. “

    “Our goal is to reduce the number of children who still have symptoms after a month,” says the doctor.

    • 155 000

    Number of Canadians who have suffered a concussion in 2014.

    • 39%

    Proportion of young people aged 10 to 18 years who visit an emergency department because of a head injury while practicing a sport and who have received a diagnosis of concussion.

    • 25%

    Percentage of junior hockey players canadians aged 16 to 21 years of age who have suffered at least one concussion during a single season.

    Sources : government of Quebec, government of Canada.

    To 60 km/h in the wall

    “Athletes can suffer from strokes that produce an acceleration range of 80 to 140 g, which is equivalent to the acceleration caused when a car collides with a brick wall at a speed of 60 to 80 km/h “, says a report of the working Group on concussion of the government of Quebec.

    Serious sequelae

    Concussions improperly treated, or repeated can lead to serious sequelae and permanent, even years later. The likelihood of suffering a neurodegenerative disease, such as Alzheimer’s disease, is multiplied by 10 after three concussions.

    How to participate

    The Montreal children’s Hospital, invites the young victims of a concussion to participate in the experience by contacting the coordinator in clinical research Joanna Mazza at (514) 412-4400 poste 25248 or by e-mail at