UVic joins global study on long-term effects of concussions from contact sports

With a mask over his face and probes monitoring his brain and cardiovascular activity, Steve Martin performs a series of squats.

The former rubgy player is undergoing an hour-long concussion protocol test at a University of Victoria lab.

The data from the test will be included in a global study to see how multiple concussions affect brain and heart health.

"I've played rugby and contact sports all my life, so I became the guinea pig," said Martin, who is also part of the research team at UVic.

"It's an important study to ensure that we can develop some objective tools to identify when a concussion is, and when it is resolving."

The global study is comparing the health of former rugby players who have had three or more concussions with other athletes, such as swimmers or golfers, who have not participated in contact sports.

The UVic researchers are also hoping to learn more about how concussions earlier in life could affect health in later years, said Lynneth Stuart-Hill, a professor in the school of exercise science, physical and health education.

"What we call return-to-play protocols for individuals getting concussed currently are really being developed, and that is a real focus of research," Stuart-Hill said.

"But it is very unique, this idea of what are the long-term effects."

The UVic lab is looking for other retired athletes willing to undergo the tests. Men between the ages of 40 and 80 years old are eligible, whether they have suffered concussions or not. 

Those who don't have a history of concussions will be control subjects for the study.

Julie Rémy/UVic