08/07/2013 23:11 EDT | Updated 10/07/2013 05:12 EDT

B.C. brain researchers launch youth concussion study

A team of B.C. brain researchers has launched a groundbreaking study to help doctors better diagnose and treat sports-related concussions in adolescents.

Brian Christie, director of the Neuroscience Graduate Program at the University of Victoria, received a $1.4 million grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to carry out the five-year study.

The grant follows calls from high-profile Canadian athletes for the sports community to dedicate more resources to understanding traumatic brain injury in youth.

Last spring, former federal cabinet minister and NHL goalie Ken Dryden said that without more research, young athletes will face catastrophic consequences.

Christie's team is using a software program called ‘Neurotracker’ to observe the brain function of 200 healthy young hockey players, ages 6 to 17, to determine what their neurological activity looks like before suffering a concussion.

Players track a ball as it moves across a 3D screen, and the program documents what their brain is doing while the program runs.

This kind of information is currently largely unavailable, hindering doctors' ability to accurately determine the symptoms of traumatic brain injury and help athletes recover from concussions, says Christie.

"They need this baseline data that all these hockey players are providing because they can see where the child should be and where their performance level should be," Christie said.